Q&A: Wide Receivers Coach Jimmy Robinson
by BBI Reporter walterb
walterb: With the competition for spots with your wide receivers, you have a pretty solid and deep group of receivers in camp. Can you characterize any of your current third, fourth and fifth receivers and tell me what they do best?
Jimmy Robinson: I don’t know if we’ve established who they are yet, to be honest with you. I guess going into this game, Ron Dixon will be the third guy. I think Ron is having a good camp. I think he has come in focused and realizes that the competition is probably as strong as it has been since he has been here. So Ron’s strengths are that he has got a lot of speed, he’s catching the ball better than he ever has, consistently, and Ron is a guy who is pretty sharp mentally. He knows what’s going on, he knows his assignments and where to go. It is just a case of developing a consistency that we’ve kinda been up and down with the last couple of years. But he’s a real talented guy though – quick, fast and he has some talent.
walterb: What’s the trick for achieving consistency, at what point does a wide receiver become consistent?
Jimmy Robinson: He becomes consistent when he makes a lot more plays than the ones he doesn’t make. If you’ve got a guy that makes and couple and then misses a – that’s inconsistent, you can’t be a 50/50 player. You’ve gotta get up in that 80-90 – hopefully 90% range or better, and then your starting to see a guy that you feel like is dependable and a guy that can be counted on.
walterb: How has speed changed your receiving schemes and the patterns that you will run? Are you going to use third, fourth, fifth receivers more in your lineup in order take advantage of the speed? And will we see changes in some of the patterns?
Jimmy Robinson: I don’t think there’s going to be a great deal of change in what we do. I think the bottom line is that we’re comfortable with what we’re doing. Of course there’s gonna be some things that we’ll add and delete over the course of any season. I think the speed allows you to be able to stretch the field better, more consistently, so maybe that means you can throw the ball down the field a little bit more often. Because the percentage of hitting those is better when you got guys who can run, I don’t think there’s a big difference in the patterns. Hopefully, they’ll run better and they’ll run them faster. And hopefully, the guys that catch those balls break tackles and go score – and it all hopefully leads to more points, more scoring, more wins.
walterb: What is different in the way receivers played the game when you played it compared to today?
Jimmy Robinson: I think the difference is there’s more receivers on the field at any one time than there would’ve been when I was playing. We were a two-receiver offense. I can’t even remember if we ever went to three wide receivers – if we did it was a rarity. I think what we do – the offenses are a bit more sophisticated, probably because you’re spreading the field a little bit more, you’ve got two, three wide receivers in more often, occasionally you’re going to four wide receivers so the patterns are different because the field is spread, you’re forcing the defense to cover the field horizontally and vertically.
walterb: In the NFL today what percentage of receiving plays are based on an option between the receiver and a quarterback?
Jimmy Robinson: There are always going to be certain adjustments based on coverage on certain routes, particularly on the outside. When you’re running some sort of out-breaking route, an out route, a comeback, and you get what we call cover two- two deep secondary – those routes are generally adjusted to what we call fades which are really go routes. As far as a true option route, the percentage isn’t any more than about 10%. That’ll depend on your personnel, now if you’ve got guys that are good option route runners, you got a great halfback, and we’ve got a couple that know how to run a half-back option, Tiki Barber and Delvin Joyce has done a nice job on that this camp. We have an option route that we run to our tight ends, so percentage is hard to say, it’s not around 50%, it’s around 10% or 20% probably.
walterb: Everyone always say a receiver and a quarterback have to develop a chemistry in order to be effective. What does that cliché really mean?
Jimmy Robinson: More than anything, it’s just a feel for where that guys gonna be on a certain route. The more times Amani Tumor runs a comeback for Kerry Collins…or a deep-in route, Kerry’s got a feel for his feet, how he gets in and out of his cuts. I guess the chemistry aspect is more just a timing thing to where Kerry gets confidence in Amani – and Amani’s got confidence that Kerry is gonna put the ball where he can catch it- and it’s a result of working together over a period of years that they start to become more and more comfortable with each other.
walterb: Typically how many reads does a quarterback go through on a passing route?
Jimmy Robinson: Typically three. There will be some where there is just one or two reads. Typically it will be a first read, or a first and second, and typically some kind of check down, or check flare, or check hook to a back as a third.
walterb: What is speed really worth to a wide receiver, is it overrated?
Jimmy Robinson: I don’t think so. If you’re a guy that doesn’t have speed, to get open then you’ve got to rely on some other things: your quickness, your separation – there’s really no combat for speed, except for pure speed on the other side. There is nothing that can cover speed but speed so you have an advantage. If you have it and they don’t, you’ve gotta hell of an advantage, if they have it and you don’t, then it’s gonna be hard to get away from people. So I don’t think it’s overrated at all. One thing we always say as coaches: it’s the one thing you can’t teach, so you’ve gotta draft or sign speed.
walterb: What kind of coverage trends are you seeing most now in the NFL, is it mostly going to the zone? Is it man to man? Or a combination or mix?
Jimmy Robinson: It’s a fair combination of man. I think teams still want to play man – it depends on personnel, if they’ve got corners and they can cover, then the teams may gravitate more to man cover and a pressure package. A lot of times now-a-days, pressure packages are zone packages where they’re dropping a defensive lineman into an area to cover a zone, it shifts and it changes a little bit, but the overall coverages are more toward a shell secondary cover two, cover four, to where they are gonna give you some stuff underneath – but they’re gonna try to take away some of the deep stuff. I think man, depending on the defensive coordinator or some of the personnel, is making a bit of a comeback.
walterb: It has been reported that you played your receivers a certain way a lot last year, they played them to the outside leaving the tight end alone a lot – is that true?
Jimmy Robinson: There is a certain amount of truth to the fact that they knew where the ball was going. And it was not going to our tight ends. So you’re not going to commit a lot of coverage to the tight-end when the tight ends as a group caught somewhere in the teens according to the stats. Amani Toomer has had seventy something catches over the last three years and Ike’s is in that had sixty-seventy range. Then obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to know that wide-outs are getting the bulk of the throws. Hopefully with Jeremy as our number one pick, there’s still gonna be plenty of balls thrown to the wide-outs but the tight-end position’s gonna get a lot more throws now than they’ve gotten in the past.
walterb: Specifically how does he open that up? How does he open up the play for the receivers?
Jimmy Robinson: Most teams are going to have trouble trying to cover him with a linebacker, the match-up is going to be to our advantage. A safety, at the same time, is not a great match-up for a tight end who can run fast or faster than some wide receivers can – not to mention the size that goes along with it. So they might want to put in extra db in there – and they may feel like they have to cover him with a corner. I don’t think that’ll happen except on a third down situation. What happens is teams are going to be less likely to double a wide receiver when you’ve got a tight end that is giving them all kinds of problems inside and down the field. It’s going to cause them some headaches. More than anything else, it’s just a match-up thing.
walterb: How much of playing in the NFL today are disguised coverages, meaning you can’t tell what it is? Or even trick coverages, where corners playing safeties, safeties playing corner for example?
Jimmy Robinson: Teams don’t disguise by safeties playing corner – they disguise with a secondary look- a pre-snap look and then they go on the snap, then they’ll move their guys into position kinda on the snap or right before the snap – that’s the disguise. A linebacker may be walked away and then he may creep back in late and dog, he’s trying to give you the illusion that he’s in a drop area, he’s playing a zone technique and then all of a sudden he dogs. It depends on the scheme again, there are a lot of people that do disguises, some people just line up in it. There’s probably more disguise than there would be people just lining up in it because the later they can get to where they’re going to, the later read they give the QB and the receivers and it’s tougher on the offense.
walterb: Is that what happened in the NFC Championship a few years ago when the crowd noise was so horrific that the Vikings couldn’t make changes and they couldn’t make adjustments do you think?
Jimmy Robinson: I think the bottom line is if they had some guys playing corner, they really struggled, they really had trouble playing corner – they weren’t NFC Championship caliber corners – quite honestly what happened is we got on ‘em early with a couple early touchdowns and a field goal. They had a turnover on a kickoff and all of a sudden it was seventeen and nothing before you know it. We jumped on them early and then they were playing in a catch up mode. I don’t know if it was so much crowd noise. I think talent and match-ups.
walterb: How much time do you spend with your receivers analyzing who they will be going up against every week?
Jimmy Robinson: You never get as much meeting time during the week as you’d like. I can certainly point out some tendencies corners will face that week – and then a lot of the individual study is done on their own: taking the tape home at night to study, and staying late after practice.
walterb: Amani Toomer seems to look better and smoother in this camp. What has he done to improve his game?
Jimmy Robinson: Amani has always has pretty good training camps. And he comes into camp in pretty good shape. Last year he got nicked early in camp and missed some time and that was a little bit of a detriment to him. Previous to when I was here, and this is my fifth year with Amani, he missed very little practice time. This year he feels like he has to get back to basics, and catch the ball more consistently. You know he has been very focused, and he has had a good restful off-season, and he also did some traveling. It helped clear his mind. And I think he enjoyed that time away. He’s focused and determined and ready to go this year.
walterb: In your division who are the toughest or most frightening wide receivers or wide receiver tandems? Give me your thoughts on the division receivers.
Jimmy Robinson: We lost Arizona, yet Arizona had one of the best in the league in David Boston. Dallas has Galloway back – and there team had injury problems the last couple of years. Philly has some young guys and they really have improved their receivers. This kid Freddie Mitchell is going to be a good player for them. Todd Pinkston is now a three year guy. Trash came in and played well for them a year ago. They are better at that position than they have been at any time. And that leaves Washington – and they have a bunch of new faces there. Westbrook is gone, And I know they signed Jacquez Green, and Reidel Anthony, and those guys have played for coach Spurrier, and they have an affinity for his offense. The veterans they have coming back include Rod Gardner, who had a real good rookie season. They’ll be young at that position but guys like Green and Anthony have got to prove that they can play at a starter level. But Rod Gardner – he’s a really good player. The bottom line is I think everyone has got good players – and I think we have as good a group. I know we got the best group since I have been here.