A lot of the talk during the offseason involved whether or not the Seahawks would bring back fullback Michael Robinson for an encore. MikeRob was a key waivers pickup from the 49ers last season during roster cut downs and came to the Seahawks and really contributed -- first and foremost, he is a special teams captain and ace, and it's a job he takes seriously -- but he was also the team's only fullback for most of the year. Seahawks fans delighted in the fact that many in San Francisco bemoaned the decision to place Robinson on waivers. So there's that, too.
With his experience as a college QB, he can get mixed up in throwing the ball as well. As Robinson put it in an interview with Kevin Calabro recently, "In this league, the more you can do, the longer you stay around."
Apart from being a vocal and respected leader on this young team, Robinson's versatility makes him a pretty key component in the offense. He can run the ball, lead-block, and even pass when called upon to do so (he completed a 26-yard pass to Leon Washington last season). He worked in the wildcat taking direct snaps on a few occasions in 2010, and it's something the Seahawks will likely look to expand on in 2011.
Robinson was a standout QB at Penn State, and in his senior year, 2005, he was actually named the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year by the coaches. He threw for 2,350 yards and 17 touchdowns (to 10 interceptions) and was a consensus 2nd Team All Big-10 selection. He also carried the ball 163 times for 806 yards, proving he's no slouch running the ball. So can he still throw?
"Absolutely, and I can still sling it around. I work on it in the offseason. Pete told me, when I left this offseason to make sure I come back and I know what to do with the ball. I was close (to playing last year). They put together a package, and I would stay after practice and work on it."
It's apparent that the Seahawks value his ability to throw the ball enough to have installed packages for it. They only used it one time last season, that I remember, but assuming they can get a little bit of a run game going that people respect, they may decide to break out the Michael Robinson half-back throw option a little more. At worst, teams have to respect his ability, and that gives the Seahawks an advantage, however slight it may be.
The other wrinkle about Robinson's ability to throw the ball is the idea that the Seahawks could lean on him for 3rd QB duties. Though they kept three dedicated QBs last season, this possibility isn't completely out of the question (though unlikely). If they can open up an extra roster spot and stash Josh Portis on the practice squad, Robinson's versatility would be very beneficial.
I'm not sure the team has told Mike what they envision from him specifically, whether it be special teams, full-time fullback, or spot QB duties, but when asked the question of what role the team has told him he'll play, he replied:
"Fullback. Special teams. That's my role. And to do some special things when they ask me to do it. I take pride in special teams, I think that's a big part of this game, and Tom Cable, he emphasizes running the football. I think we're going to run the football, we've got a beast in the backfield, and we gotta let him run."
In addition to an interest in veteran fullbacks, the Hawks have also been running some other guys out at fullback to take a look and it appears that Robinson isn't necessarily the presumptive starter or the full time guy there. Seattle was quick to re-sign him once free agency hit, so you can guess that they value his special teams work equally or even higher than his ability to lead block. The Seahawks special teams units were widely believed to be near the league's best in 2010, and Seattle's front office brought in players known specifically for their special teams play. Last year, it was Sean Morey (before he retired) and Matt McCoy, later Robinson, and I'm sure they'll go to great lengths this season to develop players in that capacity.
Because it's such a big part of his game, Robinson has gone on record during the offseason in opposition of the NFL's new kickoff rules, which moved kickoffs forward five yards. He doesn't think the result will be what the NFL hopes:
"With the kickers in this league, guys that can hang it high up in the air, and pin guys into a corner, I think for returners, they're going to pin it five seconds in the air, put them on the two yard line, and let's go play. I know the league is trying to stop people from getting hurt, but I think it's going to (create) more injuries. Because you shrink the field down to a corner, it becomes a power game. They've kind of taken the finesse part of the game out of the play.
(Teams) are going to put bigger guys on kickoff that can run, and they're going to run down there and it's going to turn into a power play."
It will be interesting to see if he's right.
Regardless of Robinson's main role, the Seahawks will be running in the zone blocking scheme. This scheme calls for the running back to pick a seam and hit it hard. The fullback often gets a free shot at the linebacker on the second level, something that Robinson revels in.
"From a fullback's prospective, you just got to read it like a runner. They make our job really easy, a lot of the times you're a cleanup guy, because the offensive line pretty much takes care of the line of scrimmage. When they add an extra guy, that's your guy. We have great backs, all three of them. I consider us having three number one backs. They just kind of pick their spots on where they want to go. It's a great scheme."
You have to respect his vigor, and it's been reported that he's up to 240 pounds, a gain of about 20 since last season. This should be a huge help for him as a fullback as he takes on linebackers on the second level.
His ability to pull up and throw the ball if need be adds a versatility to the offense, and gives the Seahawks some options in the direct snap/wildcat game. Overall I think Robinson will figure into the Seahawks offense quite a bit this season, and I'd love to see them get creative.
Probably most importantly, his leadership value is immeasurable, both on special teams and just on offense in general. And leadership is something the Seahawks are lacking particularly going into this season.