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Why I’m excited about Alton Robinson

Seattle Seahawks v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

When the Seattle Seahawks selected Alton Robinson in the fifth-round of the 2020 NFL Draft, his most obvious role appeared to be as a situational pass rusher. Much of his game is based off of a quick get-off and winning with speed over power.

Sure enough, Robinson recorded four sacks and 11 pressures despite playing in only 29% of all defensive snaps during the regular season. In a bit of statistical fun, the former Syracuse player recorded all but one of his sacks in the fourth quarter of eventual Seahawks wins. Obviously he listened to Pete Carroll’s pep talks.

But guess what? I’m not showing any of those sacks or any of his pressures in this piece. I want to focus just on two plays against the Los Angeles Rams that has me hyped for his long-term development. I’m not even the film guy but I have an NFL GamePass subscription and I might as well make the most of it.

Week 16: 1st and 10 at LAR 25 (12:43, 2nd qtr) R.Woods left tackle to LA 25 for no gain (A.Robinson; B.Mone).

One area where the Seahawks had repeatedly gotten their asses kicked by Sean McVay’s Rams was on designed handoffs to wide receivers, usually Robert Woods. They did a far better job containing that play in all three matchups, holding Woods and Josh Reynolds to a combined six yards on five attempts.

In this play, the Rams are lined up in 11 personnel and add a different wrinkle to the Woods handoff by not motioning him for the usual jet sweep. Instead, Jared Goff fakes the toss to the right side for running back Darrell Henderson and then hands it off to Woods on the inside. Joseph Noteboom and David Edwards pretty easily double team Poona Ford which means pulling right tackle Rob Havenstein’s job is to haul ass and block Robinson.

Bryan Mone gets enough penetration to send center Austin Blythe back far enough that Havenstein actually has to maneuver a bit to get to Robinson. When he does, my screenshot can make it seem like Robinson ran himself out of the play and Woods is another Noteboom block on Bobby Wagner away from breaking this into a big run.

What actually happens? Robinson isn’t fooled by the fake toss, sheds Havenstein’s block and slows Woods down enough for Bryan Mone to finish what he arguably started. The whole play is dead on arrival thanks to those two, seeing as Ugo Amadi sent Cooper Kupp to the turf and was ready to join in on the fun.

Wild Card Round: 1st and 10, LAR 25 (3:43, 2nd qtr) R.Woods right end to LA 22 for -3 yards (A.Robinson).

More 11 personnel but this time it is a jet sweep and Robinson and Woods are lined up on the other side of the formation compared to the previous play. Alton is unblocked by design and while he doesn’t actually wrap up Woods, he does enough to make him put a knee on the ground and lose three yards. If Woods had miraculously stayed up, Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs were zeroing in on Robert like a pair of lions going after prey.

I just want to focus on how quick Robinson is off the snap:

Sure, everyone is quicker when they aren’t touched but there is no hesitation from Robinson once Woods motions out. There’s every reason to believe he diagnosed the play properly and blew it up.

While not an identical play, you can see the Arizona Cardinals linebacker in this video frozen looking at a potential handoff to Malcolm Brown and he’s already out of position when Woods gets the ball and scores an easy touchdown.

BONUS, Week 3 vs Dallas: (10:30, 1st qtr) E.Elliott left end to DAL 46 for -3 yards (A.Robinson).

Okay I lied when I said two plays but I was going through the play-by-play data and saw one more run stop from his Seahawks debut.

How about a change-up? It’s 12 personnel.

There is no fake jet sweep to be had. Amari Cooper motions out of the slot and Shaquill Griffin follows him. LJ Collier should get first accolades for setting the edge by owning left tackle Connor Williams. He doesn’t make the tackle, but Robinson has backside pursuit and makes sure that Ezekiel Elliott’s slim hope of cutting it back vanishes before his eyes.

Robinson’s closing speed towards the ball carrier is once again on full display and it was essentially his first real big play in his young career.

Seattle’s defense may have been rotten for more than half the year but it has plenty of young talent at its disposal, and Robinson may be another hidden gem. If his floor is a situational pass rusher who has shown the capability to stop the run then that is perfectly acceptable for a fifth-round pick. It only makes you more eager to find out what his ceiling is. I believe the flashes he’s shown as a run defender, not just as an edge rusher, will lead to increased snaps next season.

Hopefully this breaks up the monotony of offensive coordinator discourse for ya!