Some football players are just tough. They look tough. They act tough. If you ever saw Joe Klecko or Jack Lambert play you would know exactly what I mean. You knew you were in for a long day on the football field when you had to go up against one of those two. Some players would get “injured” in practice the week prior to the game against them. It was just too bad they had to miss the game.
Some players are tough, but you wouldn’t know it to look at them. Hines Ward was like that, but you knew it if you played against him. James Harrison also was too small to play, an undersized linebacker who went undrafted. All he did (after being cut a few times) was win two Super Bowls, go to 5 Pro-Bowls and have 85 career sacks; yet he was originally considered too small to play in the NFL.
There is a kid coming out in the Draft who is a tough guy. He is considered too small also. He is not a linebacker. He is a cornerback although he plays like a linebacker. In high school he played wide receiver, running back, quarterback, defensive back, and punt returner. He played them all with a partially torn ACL. He is from Thibodaux, Louisiana, and every football player from Louisiana dreams of playing at LSU. Amik Robertson was no exception. Yet LSU was late offering Robertson a scholarship so he turned down their request to go with a smaller school in Ruston, Louisiana.
Smaller can be good also. Robertson is only 5’ 8 3/8” and 187 lbs with a couple of rolls of quarters in his pocket. He started all three years at Louisiana Tech and was one of 14 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award for the best defensive back in college football.
He is the kind of kid who is easy to root for. He plays the game the right way and impresses people who know him. His high school coach Chris Dugas was impressed by his play.
“I tell this to people all the time, Amik is a great football player,” Dugas said. “He’s probably the best football player I have ever coached. He’s a better person than he is a football player. It couldn’t have happened to a better person than Amik. I’m excited for him. I can’t wait to see him playing on Sundays.”
Robertson has very fluid movements. He seems to glide in coverage. He never seems stressed. He has quick feet and oily hips to turn and run with any receiver. He has great anticipation, and his instincts are near tops in this class. He may throw his body around like a linebacker, but he also sees the play and attacks like a linebacker as well. I may question his long speed, but you will never question his ability to tackle in space. He can play in any defensive scheme and is a solid press corner who appears to enjoy muscling much bigger receivers on the outside.
I can throw some gaudy stats at you, but first I would like yo to see him in action. See what this small man from a small school brings to the table. In this first clip Amik is in man coverage on this running play. Amik is #21.
The reason he is so aware of his surroundings is his ability to keep his eyes in great position to see the entire play. He is in off man coverage and immediately goes into a rapid peddle at the snap. He is able to stay on the outside shoulder of the receiver which allows him to play the receiver but also see the entire offense in front of him.
When he sees the run, he breaks off coverage before the receiver can turn to block him. You can see him come down under control, reading the play. Once the running back tries to go around the linebacker, Amik sees where he wants to attack then shoots for that area and takes down his man at the knees. The tackle was quick, accurate, violent, and effective.
This next clip Amik is up on the line in what appears to be man coverage but drops off into zone coverage just before the snap. The short zone in front of him is supposed to be the OLB on the left side, but he is late in getting over to fully cover that zone.
This gives the big receiver playing in the slot free access to the sideline and smooth sailing with blockers in front of him. As he races down the sideline, Amik plays off his blocker then forcibly takes down the receiver with a violent tackle. Robertson has 138 solo tackles as an outside corner the last 3 years. He is more than willing to step up to deliver a blow to anyone with the ball. He does need to try and force a fumble by ripping at the ball more. He has only 2 forced fumbles in 3 years which is a small amount for a player who prides himself on violent tackles.
Teams have tried to work against Robertson’s height continually over the years. They seem content on putting their tallest or biggest receiver against him time and time again with little success. The old adage, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog,” works well in Amik’s case. The next few clips are of teams doing just that with mixed results to say the least.
This play is against the University of Texas at San Antonio with the receiver Tykee Kellogg trying to use his height against Robertson on a streak route down the sideline. You can see he opts for an outside release which lessens the chance for the safety to come over in time to help on the play. Robertson is all alone in coverage.
Kellogg goes 6’ 4” 210 lbs so he has quite an advantage on Robertson. Yet as the play develops it is Robertson who plays this so well that he is the one with the advantage. As Kellogg takes his outside release, Robertson pushes him closer to the sideline which limits the area the QB has to complete the pass. Robertson also get his head around early because he is able to run with the big receiver easily. He can feel him on his back as he looks for the ball so there is no guesswork in knowing where the receiver is. As the play develops it is Robertson who is in perfect position to intercept the pass if the receiver had not pushed him with two hands in the back as he was about to jump. Even with the interference Robertson is still able to deflect the pass away.
If you have even jumped as someone is pushing you then you understand how devastating it is for the height on your jump. This is just well played by Robertson who did not get the favor of an interference call by the ref.
This next play is against the University of Texas as Robertson is in press coverage. When I say press coverage it is as strong of press coverage that you will ever see by a defender who is dwarfed by his opponent.
The receiver in this instance is Malcolm Epps who is a 6’ 6” 245 lbs mountain of a receiver. Robertson is able to get a great jam on him as he jumps across the line while using great leverage to lift the receiver slightly off his feet. He continues with two more volleys against the massive receiver not allowing him off the line. This all happens within a yard of the line of scrimmage which is perfectly legal, and you can see there is no holding, just Robertson manhandling the much bigger man. From a closer view you can see everything clearly.
Robertson is about 7 1/2” shorter and almost 60 lbs lighter, but he is the one who is in position to catch the pass because of his aggressive play. In fact you don’t see Robertson pounding his chest in victory. He is actually upset that he could not right himself well enough to make the INT. This is a competitor who expects great things from himself and is upset when those things don’t happen.
This next clip is against the National Champions and receiver Terrence Marshall who is 6’ 4” 200 lbs on a 15 year dig route. A receiver who is that big has a huge advantage when he crosses the face of the defender because once he gains an advantage his size makes it very difficult to get around to make a play when the ball is out in front of him.
The only way to make this play is to stay right on the hip of the receiver as he makes his break then stay there until the pass comes. If you are late you have no shot. If you are early then it will be a penalty and a first down. On this play Robertson plays this with perfection as he gets a hand in to knock the ball away from the big receiver. If there is any concern about Robertson’s size it lies in the 30 1/4” arms which are under the threshold of many teams like the Seahawks. The only advantage to this situation (as it pertains to his Draftablity) is that it may push Roberson down make him more accessible to the Jets at a much lower draft round.
This next clip we will look how well Robertson does against speed, and in this case we are looking at Devin Duvernay of Texas who is a 5’ 10” 200 lbs speedster with 4.39/40 speed. They are both at the top of the screen with Robertson in man coverage and bailing at the snap. He is helped as the defense has an OLB floating into the zone underneath the route, but it has no bearing on the play as Duvernay is running an out and up.
Just watch how fluid in his coverage Robertson looks. He turns immediately to run with the receiver but stays right with him, not hurried, not stressed. Robertson is able to keep his eyes on the receiver and the QB as the play develops. Never is Robertson out of position with any throw in bounds to be highly contested. The QB sees the futility in the situation and air mails the throw into the cheerleaders. It is nice to watch as Robertson effortlessly flips his hips to stay right with his speedy opponent.
This next play is probably more likely what you will see Robertson doing in the NFL; just from the slot rather than the outside. This is straight man coverage on a drag route with a quick little receiver.
This play is usually open for the offense but not here with this player in coverage. Robertson does not use a press coverage on the play and just stays right in the hip pocket of the receiver. Watch how he runs easily with the receiver while he looks back to the QB to get a read on the play. Robertson is a ball hawk ranking top five in interceptions in all of college football over the last 3 years. You have seen the reason for this. It is not some lucky fluke that he has so many interceptions. He has a feel for where his man is. He runs easily with his man, and he is always looking back for the ball.
In fact many times Robertson is in position and just misses a shot at an interception. He had two in this next game alone against FIU.
On this play the quarterback James Morgan stares down his receiver on a stop route which is a severe no-no as DBs will jump that and take the pass back to the house. Robertson can see the play all the way but doesn’t explode to the ball like he should. You can see he is visibly upset at himself for the missed opportunity. You can see him breaking on the ball. If this had been a thinner receiver he might have gotten around him for the pick, but it was not to be.
This next play is a comeback route against press coverage along the sideline. The receiver is going to try and sell the deep route then break back to the ball. Against most CBs this would work as there is less than two minutes left in the game, and FIU is down by two scores. You would think they would want to push the ball down the field.
The ball is a little too inside instead of being out toward the sideline. Robertson gets his hands on the ball, but it hits the ground in the fight for the catch. Most receivers are going to lose that battle against Robertson. Robertson has 14 career INTs including 3 pick sixes on his resume. If you count the 34 passes he had defended, in the last three years he has caused 48 balls to be not received in 38 games. Many QBs simply avoided throwing his way.
I mentioned earlier that he has great anticipation and impressive instincts. Here is an example of those qualities. He is in off man coverage 6 yards off the ball, but he feels something is up. He is reading the slot receiver’s movements as well as his own man’s lazy walk off the line.
He is off like a shot as soon as he sees the QB turn to throw. He gets by his own man’s poor attempt to block him with ease and is there to break up the play. Robertson read the play then traveled 8 yards to make the play as the ball arrived. Here is a closer look.
He and the ball get there both at about the same time; if he was a step faster it would have been a pick six, but the nice breakup will have to do. This is just an impressive all around play by a player whose head is in the game all the time unlike a certain big money pro corner who recently got cut.
Robertson has always been a big play defender, and that extends to special teams which he often played on. Here he is saving a game with a blocked kick with seconds to go in the game. A star player who also plays special teams is a real football player. He plays the game because of love for the game, not for money or social status.
Laying it all on the line is all you can ask of a player. Here he salts a game away with a return for a TD of an onsides kick. He was more lucky than good on this play, but some players always make their own luck.It is why they make plays like this.
Robertson is a playmaker who will make plays whether he is on special teams, defense, or even offense if you ask. He led his team in solo tackles as an outside corner (not a linebacker, not a safety but an outside cover corner) with 44 solo tackles which is amazing. The 44 solo tackles was also his lowest total in his career. He returned two INTs for TDs and has three in his career. He is one of two players in the country with 3 pick sixes.
I purposely didn’t show you any of his 14 interceptions because I wanted you to see how he got them by being vigilant in coverage and using proper technique. When you do the things the right way good things happen. He also has 23 TFL as an outside cover corner, which is amazing along with 4 sacks on blitzes.
His high school coach says it best. “The numbers don’t lie in college. He’s really doggone good and he’s probably the best corner in the nation right now coming out. He may not have the size like some other guys coming out, but I think as a football player, he’s definitely the best one out there because of his attitude, work ethic and ability on the field is second to none.”
Robertson did not test at the Combine because he had a minor groin tear and made the decision to have surgery to fix it and was not ready to work out until mid February. He was going to test at his pro day but that is out the window now. You will have to make a decision on Amik Robertson by his game film which is pretty dang good. I suspect he could be had in the late 4th round and profiles right now as a slot corner in the NFL.
He would probably be a nickel corner and a special teams maven to start his career. I realize the Jets just signed Brian Poole as the slot corner for the 2020 season. Yet it is only a one year contract. Robertson could be a perfect as a slot corner fit with a year of pro experience under his belt for 2021.
Robertson could be a draft day steal. If you don’t believe me just ask Amik. “Whatever team drafts me, they are going to get the best out of Amik Robertson,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to play in the league. I’ve got that opportunity, so whatever team drafts me, they are getting a steal.”
That’s what he thinks.
What do you think?