When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Alton Robinson in 2020, there were a handful of fans and analysts who thought the team had found a steal of a defender in the fifth round. And he looked every bit the part in his rookie season, as fellow draftee Darrell Taylor had to sit the entire year, opening up the door for Robinson to step in and make an impact. While he may not have literally set the league on fire, he did ignite some hype heading into his sophomore campaign.
Then, in 2021, the Seattle Seahawks team website featured Robinson as a potential breakout player heading in to the season; Brian Baldinger of NFL.com listed Alton one spot after Javon Kinlaw on his list of eight trench players poised for breakout second seasons. But that never really materialized. In fact, after a rookie season that saw him put up an impressive 4 sacks in intermittent duty, he failed to record more than a single sack last season while also regressing in pretty much every way. Opinions on Pro Football Focus abound, but look at his 2021 game log and it paints a pretty clear picture; you don’t really need too much analysis to see that he did not play up to his standards last season.
Seahawks edge Alton Robinson week-by-week grades in 2021. What happened after those first three games? Well... for starters, opposing pass blocking improved. Indi (#23), Tennessee (#29), Minnesota (#28) all ranked near the bottom in team pass blocking, per Pro Football Focus pic.twitter.com/S0kyDaiL1D— Stan "the Soy Boy" Taylor (@GoodGuyAtSports) August 9, 2022
Was this simply the product of a poor pass rush and subpar coaching on the defense? Maybe. It isn’t like any player on Seattle’s defense was setting the league on fire. Still, there is a pretty clear separation between Alton Robinson and guys at the top of the Seahawks’ depth chart. Per Michael-Shawn Dugar:
Seahawk sack leaders 2021— Dugar, Michael-Shawn (@MikeDugar) January 12, 2022
Carlos Dunlap - 8.5
Rasheem Green - 6.5
Darrell Taylor - 6.5
Poona Ford - 2
Bryan Mone - 1.5
Kerry Hyder - 1.5
Al Woods - 1.5
Bobby Wagner - 1
Benson Mayowa - 1
Jordyn Brooks - 1
Ryan Neal - 1
Alton Robinson - 1
But the sophomore slump can be real, and things are looking a bit different for Alton Robinson in 2022. No longer the fresh rookie from the East Coast with a ton of upside, he now looks like he is fighting an uphill battle for playing time. However, he seems as prepared for the challenge as he possibly could be, given that he is also already facing further scrutiny due to his “scheme fit” under new coordinator Clint Hurtt. As Corbin K. Smith reports:
“As for Robinson, the fifth-round selection out of Syracuse reported for his third training camp as an afterthought in an edge rushing group featuring Taylor, free agent signee Uchenna Nwosu, and rookies Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith. Moving from a 4-3 defensive end role to a 3-4 outside linebacker role, questions persisted about how well he would fit into the new scheme.
But after only producing one sack and falling out of the rotation to an extent in 2021, Robinson has shown himself to be up to the challenge emerging as one of the bigger surprises on defense thus far while playing at a lighter weight under 260 pounds.
“Alton came back with a different body type,” Carroll stated. “He lost about 15 pounds, but is really stout, strong, and explosive. He’s done a nice job starting up camp so far.””
For the full article and a deeper dive into the 2020 draft class, you can read Smith’s full article over at Sports Illustrated at Fan Nation.
When all is said and done, I still have a lot of hope for Alton Robinson. Sure, we have seen guys in the past flash for a season before falling into anonymity (this always makes me think of Raheem Brock and how excited I was for that mega-breakout season that didn’t end up happening in 2011). Will we get to see a rejuvenated pass rusher this Saturday, when the Seattle Seahawks open up the preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers? Hard to say, but I just have a hard time believing that we will never again get to see the guy who repeatedly showed up at big moments in 2020. Big moments like these:
Former Syracuse DE Alton Robinson with a critical 4th quarter TFL in Seahawks win. pic.twitter.com/MOLPqJSFs5— Mike McAllister (@McAllisterMike1) October 4, 2020