I am not a big time stat wonk nor am I one of those people who considers the opinions of the geeks to be absolute ironclad gospel. Some swear by PFF as though it were some kind of bible, and cite its conclusions as though they put an end to all further discussion about the matter in question. But to me it’s less of a bible and more of a tool. It’s just one more way to help quantify that which is ultimately probably not quantifiable and will always remain stuck in a grey area of subjectivity and impression and bias.
That said, every now and then a stat pops up somewhere on PFF or elsewhere that does seem to carry a lot of weight. One such stat showed up on my Twitter feed last evening and I thought I’d pass it along. The subject was cornerbacks. Specifically, which cornerbacks are getting targeted the most by quarterbacks. This is the list as tweeted by PFF:
1. 38 Robinson, MIN
2. 36 Rogers, BUF
3. 33 Skrine, CLE; Haden, CLE
4. 32 Taylor, PIT
5. 31 Smith, BAL; Arrington, NE
Our very own Josh Robinson is being thrown at more than any cornerback in the league. Of course this is just a stat and for a stat to have value it must be analyzed a little bit and put into context. Just cause they’re throwing at Robinson a lot doesn’t mean he’s necessarily giving up the receptions, right?
Well that’s the problem. Because not only is Robinson getting thrown at the most, he has also allowed the most receptions in the NFL so far, a whopping 35. I’m no good at percentages but 35 receptions on 38 targets is some number that’s way, way too high. And when you add the fact that Robinson can’t tackle worth a darn – though he did in all fairness have one nice tackle in the backfield against Pittsburgh – I think we can easily pass judgment here. Josh Robinson is arguably the worst cornerback in the league through the first four games.
As long as Robinson is on the field and struggling this mightily, quarterbacks are going to keep looking for him and will keep throwing in his direction. The truly frustrating thing is that most of Robinson’s struggles are coming when he’s lined up at the slot position, the spot he was being groomed for all camp and preseason. Robinson has been called upon to play outside on the left in base because for some reason the coaches refuse to let Xavier Rhodes start, but Robinson has only seen limited action in that role because the Vikes are in nickel so much. So you can’t chalk up Robinson’s struggles to playing out of position. He can’t even play the position the team was training him for.
Clearly, Rick Spielman and company committed a major gaffe when they drafted Robinson, thinking they could groom him to replace Antoine Winfield. Fans of course are clamoring for Winfield to return but I don’t believe for a second this will ever happen. Winfield burned his bridges in Minnesota and wouldn’t return even if Rick Spielman offered up his first born as a sacrifice. And, to be quite frank, I’m not sure Winfield has it physically anymore.
So what is the solution? For now all we can do is wait. We have to hope Chris Cook recovers from his groin injury and returns to action at right corner. We have to hope the coaches finally gain faith in Xavier Rhodes and start him at left corner in the base defense instead of working him into sub-packages. And we have to hope that Marcus Sherels, who has held up pretty darn well starting outside in place of Cook, can lock down the slot corner spot that Robinson is clearly not capable of playing.
The main thing for me is just this: Leslie Frazier needs to stop his usual waffling and giving guys extra chances and just make a darn decision. Look at the thing with cold, hard objectivity and recognize that Josh Robinson is a terrible football player. Stick Robinson on the bench where he belongs and give Sherels, who is a gamer if nothing else, a chance to prove himself. This secondary can still be fixed, but only if the coaches are willing to put the best players on the field, instead of trying to stubbornly work a plan that clearly can’t work with the personnel available.