The Buffalo Bills’ defense was inconsistent throughout the 2015 season as they’ve transitioned to Rex Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. Some players throughout the front seven that were productive in Mike Pettine and Jim Schwartz’ defensive schemes that were based on 4-3 concepts haven’t been able to replicate that success in their new roles. So, going into the offseason and most notably the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s likely that the team will look to acquire defenders that fit the archetypes for the positions needed for Ryan’s system to thrive. Today, we’ll take a look at Alabama’s highly touted defensive linemen, A’Shawn Robinson.
Previous Prospect Breakdowns
A’Shawn Robinson Physical Attributes
A’Shawn Robinson is one of many Alabama defensive linemen in recent seasons to garner major hype prior to the draft. The 20-year old that stands 6’4” and weighs 315 pounds racked up 129 tackles, 22 for a loss, nine sacks and 18 quarterback hurries in his three years as a starter. Robinson has a big, thick and powerful frame with long arms that allow him to hold the edge against the run.
Alabama utilized him all over the defensive line, but was primarily a three or five technique in base downs.
A’Shawn Robinson Pass Rush
A’Shawn Robinson is incredibly unimpressive in passing situations, as he doesn’t possess great athleticism and lacks a repertoire of pass rush moves. He solely relies on his natural strength to overpower opposing linemen with a bull-rush, but he doesn’t show any counter moves and often gives up when he’s unable to disengage from a blocker.
However, he does have incredible strength for a 20-year old, as displayed in the following clip against Georgia, where he overpowers the center into the backfield with a bull-rush.
Robinson doesn’t get off the ball quickly and appears to have difficulty reading the snap count.
Now, it’s important to remember that Robinson is just 20-years old, so he’s definitely not a finished product, but as far as his potential as a pass rusher, I don’t see a high ceiling there as his primary strengths come when defending the run.
A’Shawn Robinson Run Support
A’Shawn Robinson is going to make his money in the National Football League as a run stuffer. He’s strong at the point of attack and doesn’t surrender ground when facing double teams. He was asked to both one and two gap during his time with the Crimson Tide, but he consistently showed the ability to prevent offensive linemen from creating movement and allowed his teammates to make plays at the line of scrimmage.
In the following play against Texas A&M, Robinson gets out of his stance quickly and uses his length to get inside the pads of the opposing linemen. After standing him up, Robinson sheds the block and brings down the running back for a stop.
While Robinson is often capable of simply using his strength to hold the point of attack, he needs to learn how to fully maximize his length and heavy hands in order to truly be a force against the run. In the next play, you can see that Robinson gets locked up with the lineman and isn’t able to get off the block.
Potential Fit with Buffalo Bills
A’Shawn Robinson’s entire draft “stock” since the National Championship game is eerily similar to the hype former Alabama Crimson Tide edge defender, Courtney Upshaw, received around this time prior to the 2011 NFL Draft. Like Upshaw having talented players like Marcell Dareus and Terrence Cody alongside him, Robinson has benefitted greatly by the presence of future top 50 draft picks in Jarran Reed, Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams.
Robinson is good at what he does—he can shut down the run and hold the edge on plays to his side of the field. However, in a league in which passing is emphasized, Robinson hasn’t displayed the consistent ability to pressure or disrupt opposing offenses throughout his career. While he certainly has the time and body type to improve on these aspects of his game, I simply can’t understand the hype surrounding him.