NFL: No picks, no problem for Dunta Robinson
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) – Dunta Robinson has played 22 games since his last interception.
As long as the Atlanta Falcons keep winning, the seventh-year cornerback couldn’t be happier.
“This was the main reason I came here – to win,” Robinson said this week. “To have 12 wins in 14 games, that’s a major deal. That’s what you sign up for. I have no complaints with anything that’s going on.”
Robinson starts on the right side of Atlanta’s defense. He has watched left cornerback Brent Grimes pick off five passes to share the team interception lead with strong safety William Moore.
Opponents only occasionally targeted Robinson during the first three months of the season. They focused on Grimes, a former undrafted free agent and practice squad player who seemed more vulnerable despite starting eight games and finishing with six interceptions last year.
Over the last seven games, though, Grimes has five picks, 22 pass breakups and 27 solo tackles. Naturally, Robinson is getting more action.
Maybe his long streak without an interception will end Monday when New Orleans (10-4) and its prolific offense visit Atlanta (12-2). Either way, Robinson considers it “bizarre” he’s still looking for a pick eight months after the Falcons guaranteed him more than $22 million as part of a six-year contract.
“One pick would make my life so much better, just one,” he said with a smile. “I just want to get that zero off the sheet. I’ve talked to a lot of my teammates, and they’re like, ‘Man, that’s a show of respect. They really don’t throw the ball at you all that much.”‘
Robinson, though, didn’t choose Atlanta as a free-agent destination to fill his stat sheet. He wanted to win.
In his first six seasons with Houston, Robinson’s teams never made the playoffs. Though he wasn’t exactly joining a star-studded defense in Atlanta, Robinson liked how the 4-3 scheme valued a team concept. Atlanta leads the NFL in time of possession and ranks fourth in defensive scoring.
“When I left (Houston), I was on my third coordinator and second coach in the secondary, but there’s an understanding in this building,” he said. “It’s not one or two people that have to deliver. Collectively as a group, everybody in this building, if you’re going to contribute, you’ve got to step on the field and deliver. Guys here understand what they’re supposed to do.”
Robinson knew the 4-3 scheme designed by coach Mike Smith and defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder uses more zone coverage. That tends to limit a right cornerback’s chances at interceptions against right-handed quarterbacks, who begin sizing up defenses on the other side of the field.
The Falcons weren’t concerned about Robinson’s interception totals with Houston. They also didn’t seem to care that Robinson, despite being drafted 10th overall in 2004, never was invited to a Pro Bowl.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff was as excited about Robinson’s willingness to deal with the running game as he was in his coverage skills. Robinson went without a pick in his final 19 games with the Texans.
Robinson also was replacing Chris Houston, whose toughness occasionally was questioned in the Atlanta locker room.
“It’s easy to see what our front office knew when we went out and got Dunta,” Grimes said. “He plays hard. He prepares hard, and you value his understanding of the game and what to expect or what you might see with a certain receiver or a certain type of offense. He’s definitely been an asset to our team and our secondary.”
Robinson made headlines two months ago after his collision with receiver DeSean Jackson resulted in a concussion for both players. The NFL ruled the hit too aggressive and fined Robinson $50,000.
Robinson insists he’s not a dirty player. What concerns him is beating the Saints on Monday night. A victory would ensure the Falcons an NFC South title and a No. 1 playoff seed.
Robinson heard trash talk from New Orleans after Atlanta beat the Super Bowl champions three months ago in the Louisiana Superdome.
“I don’t think we snuck away with a win,” he said. “I think at that point in time the better team won the football game that day.”
And Robinson can’t wait for quarterback Drew Brees to test him again.
“I think one of the big reasons is that Grimes has been playing so well,” Robinson said. “It’s good to have a guy on the other side of you that’s going to force other teams to throw the ball back your way. I expect the same thing Monday night.”