Defensive end Brian Robison is entering his 10th season with the Vikings. Last season, he set a career high with 30 solo tackles while also recording five sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. But the most important thing for Robison heading into the season is that the team made the playoffs. This offseason, the team is as focused as he can remember.
“I think the thing I’m most impressed with is the fact that really the last two years, but especially this year, guys have come back in shape,” said Robison, 33. “It looks like we never skipped a beat from the end of the season. Guys have come back in shape, they’re working hard, and that’s what you want to see out of a young football team like we have. That everyone is working hard and they’re doing everything they possibly can to help the team win.”
The Vikings finished 2015 ranked 13th in total defense in the NFL. They were 14th in 2014 when coach Mike Zimmer took over, after finishing 31st overall in 2013. Robison was asked if there remains room for improvement.
“Absolutely, I think there’s ways we can improve,” he said. “I think if you look at it there were some big jumps we made in a lot of areas. I think two things that we can really work on this year that will help us improve a lot is our two-minute defense at the end of the half. We allowed too many points throughout the year on that end on our part. We have to work on that. Then we just need to create more turnovers. A lot of that comes down to guys making the extra effort.
“I thought we did a great job of doing a lot of fundamental stuff last year, making tackles, stuff like that. Now we have to be able to do a little extra. That means when the second guy comes in on a ball carrier you try and rip that ball out and do things like that. If we do that, the sky is the limit for our defense.”
While Robison set a career high in tackles last year, his sacks dropped from a career high of nine in 2013 to a total of 9½ the past two seasons. He had 8½ sacks in 2012 and eight in 2011.
He said that coming into the season he always is looking for ways to improve overall, but he did mention playing a little looser than he has been.
“I never really pinpoint one thing I can do better. It’s a broad spectrum as a whole, as a player, what I can do better,” said Robison, a fourth-round draft pick out of Texas in 2007. “I think the things I have to get better at, I obviously think I had a really good year last year, did a lot of things.
“As far as in our defense a lot of moving parts and positions, but the one thing I can do much better is play a little bit more with my instincts. I think the last couple of years I have been a little bit robotic, try to do things within the scheme of the defense. I want to keep doing those things, but I have to at times be a little more aggressive getting off blocks and just go make plays. I understand we do all this practice throughout the week, so we build up muscle memory and we know what happens. Then on Sunday we can go out and play with our instincts. That’s what I have to do. I have to let it loose.”
Using playoffs as motivation
Robison said the Vikings have definitely had their 10-9 wild-card playoff loss to Seattle in the back of their mind this offseason, but they are using it for motivation.
“For us, we understand that Blair [Walsh] is one of the best kickers in the league and it was just unfortunate it was a missed field goal,” Robison said. “I think it was one of those deals that me personally, I think he never should have been put in that position. We have to score more points on offense and we have to protect at the end of the game. Defensively, we have to do whatever we can to keep Seattle out of the end zone.
“We had one busted play where it got snapped over the head. If that doesn’t happen they don’t get in the end zone, and Blair is never put in that position. It shows that it’s a team game. But having that taste going throughout the offseason, I think guys understand those are some of the ballgames we’re going to have to win in the playoffs to get where we want to get. Having that bad taste makes you work harder, makes you want it more. Hopefully that’s the way guys take it.”
All of a sudden, a veteran
Robison is now the second-longest-tenured Viking, along with fellow 2007 draft pick Adrian Peterson, one year behind 2006 pick Chad Greenway. With rookie camp starting, it got him looking back at his time here.
“It’s astonishing I’ve been in this league going on 10 years now,” he said. “It seems to have flown by so fast. It seems like just yesterday I was walking in those doors doing rookie minicamp. I can remember it like it was yesterday. It’s just amazing how time flies by and it really makes you not only respect the game and the people you’ve been with in the locker room, but I think it makes you hungrier as you get older, because you understand time is ticking. And it is ticking a lot faster than you think it is.”
It’s also amazing to think that Robison, the 102nd overall selection in 2007, now sits at eighth overall in team history with 48½ sacks.
And if he can have a great season, he could jump into the top five in that elite club, and maybe make the playoffs for the fifth time in his career.
• Pro Football Focus recently released its top 101 players for the 2015 NFL season, and four Vikings made the list. Anthony Barr was ranked No. 20, Harrison Smith 22, center Joe Berger 40 and defensive tackle Linval Joseph 48. Adrian Peterson didn’t make the list, and the website explained why, citing the NFL rushing leader’s six fumbles, his 2.3 yards per carry after contact that was only 29th in the NFL and his ineffectiveness as a blocker and receiver.
• It might be time for the Twins to recall Byron Buxton, who is hitting .313 with three homers, five doubles, one triple, eight RBI and 16 runs in his first 19 games back at Class AAA Rochester, with seven walks and 19 strikeouts. … Fellow top prospect Max Kepler has hit .260 with four triples, two doubles, 13 RBI and eight runs in 20 games for the Red Wings.
• When the Vikings named Patrick Talty the general manager for U.S. Bank Stadium, many thought they would land the 2017 WrestleMania bid because he was senior vice president of live events for World Wrestling Entertainment before joining the Vikings. But the popular event instead went to Orlando, though the Vikings say they will try again to land it in the future.
• Rochester John Marshall 6-9 freshman Matthew Hurt, the younger brother of Gophers basketball recruit Michael Hurt, has accepted an invitation to the Adidas Nations Training Camp in Miami next weekend, a prestigious hoops program for top high school prospects.
• In addition to the regular Ryder Cup, there is a Junior Ryder Cup that will be held Sept. 26-27 at Interlachen Country Club in Edina. That event will feature some of the best young amateurs in the world. Golfers such as Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have played in the event.
• Former Gophers standout Phil Kessel has been amazing in the playoffs for Pittsburgh with five goals and eight assists in 13 games. He had two goals and an assist in the Penguins’ series-clinching victory over Washington.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and Sundays at 9:30 a.m. E-mail: email@example.com