The Craig Robertson Film Room

Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE

I'm excited to announce that I will be joined by one of DBN's finest - Rufio - and that he will be adding his commentary during the film breakdown below. We will be taking a look at a linebacker / position that is going to be an important cog in Ray Horton’s defense this upcoming fall.

And with that, the Craig Robertson Film Room is now in session.

Aside from looking at a multitude of charts and metrics which should help you formulate your opinion of Robertson, Rufio and I will look at a number of plays in the film room from the 2012 season that highlight Robertson's closing speed, tackling, run stop and coverage.

Aside from being what appears to be a good individual, one thing to keep in mind is that this upcoming year is technically this young mans' 2nd NFL season actually playing on Sundays. According to NFL.com, Robertson had 93 combined tackles, 62 solo, 31 assisted, 1 sack, 2 INT in 3 starts over 16 appearances and according to ProFootballFocus' stats below, he contributed 3 pass deflections; 2 QB hits and 1 QB hurry during those appearances last season. That was enough to earn him a performance based bonus this past spring:

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LB Craig Robertson awarded $236,962 in league's performance-based bonus program for outperforming his contract in 2012.

I like Robertson's fit in Horton's scheme as a 3-4 ILB much better than his fit as a 4-3 OLB in Jauron's defense. The gap assignments among our defensive front should suck up blockers and allow Robertson to use his speed and instincts to make plays in both facets of the game. As you’ll see below, Robertson was fairly stout against the run and often made quick reads and showed good play recognition. He did well in coverage to recognize most shallow routes and screens then close on the play using his speed and quickness. While Robertson isn't the biggest ILB, he flashed good technique; instincts; showed strong pursuit angles; and showed excellent closing speed. Robertson contributed on special teams last year as well, which added value to his roster spot, but it will be interesting to see if he remains a contributor on that side of the ball this year or not.

Robertson was seldom asked to rush the passer last year ( only 55 snaps or 8% of the time ), which could be something that changes this year. If this happens it could be a way he adds much needed production and value to his minutes. It will be important for him to maximize his time on the field, especially during pass rush. Last year when in coverage ( 390 snaps or 62% of the time ) Robertson allowed nearly 600 total yards receiving / 400 YAC; 54 receptions; and nearly 80% of passes thrown his way were completed. He'll need to improve that aspect of his game.

As you can see in the charts below, another area Robertson will have to improve is his tackling. Robertson's tackling efficiency vs the run was 8 and 6.3 vs the pass, with a combined tackling efficiency of 6.8. So for every 8 tackles vs the run, Robertson missed 1, and for every 6.3 tackles vs the pass, he missed 1. Robertson missed 9 total tackles against the pass and 4 against the run last season. His competition at the ILB position, James Michael Johnson, had a tackling efficiency of 19, so for every 19 tackles vs the pass, he missed 1 and had a combined efficiency of 25. This will be a focus of the coaching staff during camp and pre-season. Robertson must improve here if he hopes to earn and keep a starting role. Also, I haven't seen enough of his ability to shed blockers in the run game, creating space for him to fly around the field and make plays and I am hoping his smaller size doesn't impact his ability to do this and that the coaching and grooming he's been getting from the staff will help address this concern. Playing alongside and learning from D'Qwell Jackson shouldn't hurt either.

It appears that Horton will be willing to rush the passer from just about any position on the field, and that includes inside linebacker. While I am not saying I believe Robertson can be the type of player Daryl Washington is for the Arizona Cardinals, I am saying that we saw a lot of production against the run and a lot of production and pressure against the pass from Ray Horton’s middle linebackers the last couple of seasons. And while Robertson managed very little pressure on the QB last year, playing under Horton should give him the chance to add to those totals and add more value to his time on the field. The way I see it, something has to give next year with all our "big hogs" along the line and all our "big dogs" rushing from the outside, and opposing teams might just end up being vulnerable up the middle.

The expectation for a potential starter like Robertson will be just as high as any other on the Browns roster, regardless of his un-drafted status but according to the Akron Beacon Journal, via RotoWorld:

Browns ILB Craig Robertson remains in the "driver's seat" to start opposite D'Qwell Jackson.

Robertson was considered the favorite even before the Browns didn't address inside linebacker in the draft, so his position has only gotten stronger. Robertson ran with the first team throughout OTAs. A 2012 undrafted free agent, Robertson played 628 snaps last season, grading out negatively in Pro Football Focus' ratings but flashing terrific range as a sort of poor man's Wesley Woodyard. He'll be pushed by Tank Carder and L.J. Fort in camp

If you use FA and the draft as your gauge, the Browns appear to be satisfied with their overall depth and skill at ILB. However, I don't believe this and I think the coaching staff will be expecting constant improvement from this group and driving them to execute and produce sans any sense of entitlement. According to Terry Pluto, Robertson's main competition and last year's fourth round pick, James Michael Johnson, has had a hard time picking up Horton’s scheme and could even be on the "roster bubble". If this is true, and not just the organization trying to light a fire under Johnson publicly through the media, this gives Robertson a huge window of opportunity in training camp to solidify his role as a starter for the Browns. Regardless, this will be a fun camp battle to watch and I can't wait for all the fun to begin next week!

** All images will enlarge if you click on them **

2012 Ratings by Week

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2012 Summary by Week

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2012 Defensive Snaps per Game

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Efficiency vs. Pass

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Run Stop %

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Pass Rush %

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As discussed above, this metric could significantly change this season if Robertson is asked to rush the passer. That being said, this chart illustrates just how inefficient he was in terms of creating pressure, whether by scheme or lack of execution.

Tackling Efficiency

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When in Coverage

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Week 1 vs. Philadelphia

2nd and 16 – Coverage and textbook tackle in the flat on dig route underneath

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RUFIO: Here we see Robertson lined up on the outside in a nickel package - most likely a passing situation. Dick Jauron played mostly a 4-2-5 Over defense for nickel packages in 2012. "Over" means that the front is shifted to the strength of the formation, here "over" means to the offense’s left. You might notice that this formation looks familiar to our normal 4-3, only with nickel personnel because both were usually "Over" fronts. Robertson is playing as the weak-side backer.


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RUFIO: Here we see both DQ and Craig dropping back in what appears to be a cover 2 zone defense. Robertson’s primary responsibility is killing intermediate passes over the middle between the corner and safety. With only the one vertical stem on his side by the WR, he doesn’t have a lot to worry about. On this play the Eagles are trying to get a high/low stretch on us via the classic "Drive" concept (I did a post on this a while back).


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RUFIO: The shallow cross and the Dig route come from the same side, with a post from the other side. Because the post hits right between the two deep safeties, we need to defend the dig with someone carrying it deep like our NB does. This means the safeties can pinch the post, the nickel can handle the dig with a little inside help from DQ, and Robertson can jump the cross.


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RUFIO: With the shallow cross you aren’t expecting to throw it and get 6+ yards on the completion, you are expecting some YAC with a WR vs a slower player or with a head start vs man. Robertson does a good job here to limit YAC and make a good tackle in space.


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Week 1 vs Philadelphia

3rd and 8 – coverage; pass recognition and tackle in open field vs LeSean McCoy

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RUFIO: again we see a 4-2 over but this time Robertson is playing the “Mike” (though they are extremely similar positions in a 4-2). This leads me to believe the Eagles used motion prior to the start of this play. If not, we just set our secondary to the receiver and our line to the TE.

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RUFIO: We still see cover-2, and Jauron’s spot-dropping, take away the deep-first approach. We sag off to take the deeper stuff first, then let the throw take us to the checkdown.

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Here we see that check-down developing. Vick is getting ready to deliver the ball to his back underneath. Robertson is in position to cover the check-down, the issue would be wrapping up LeSean McCoy once he has the ball in the open field.

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In both this snap-shot as well as the previous one, we see Robertson "breaking down" in perfect form, noticing he has help on the inside, and not allowing McCoy to escape to the outside due to bad angle or diving to make a tackle. On the contrary, Robertson lines up the tackle and wraps up the ball carrier.

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Week 3 vs. Buffalo

2nd and 10 – Play recognition, run stop and tackling

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RUFIO: Right away, you can see we don’t have enough in the box to stop the run. They have 6 blockers, we have 6 tacklers, they can block all of us. The DL are aligned in their gaps. The remaining gaps are frontside C, frontside A, backside B.

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RUFIO: Robertson and DQ are sort of supposed to squeeze the back based on his flow. When he goes left, DQ gets the frontside C and Robertson the frontside A. If he flowed the other way Robertson takes the B (to the right side of the screen) and DQ takes the A.

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RUFIO: This is an inside zone play, and IMO the back makes a bad read but it ends up working out for him. We want to put them in 3rd and long, not to give up all these yards and make it 3rd and short. To do this, we need safety support and Usama Young takes way too long to get there. Thankfully, the DT on the right of the screen didn’t let OL #70 leak up to get his hands on Robertson. Robertson uses his athleticism to avoid the block and make the tackle.

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Week 3 vs. Buffalo

2nd and 1 – Gap assignment, reading play, then beats OG to make tackle for loss

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RUFIO: We’re still in a 4-2 over, and I think we’re still in cover-2, though it could be 2 deep man under or something else if we shifted.

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RUFIO: Winn maybe gets a little over aggressive, skipping over a gap. But it is still effective because of how bad he beats his blocker.

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Here we see Robertson peeking into the backfield while also ensuring he doesn't get caught up in the block

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RUFIO: Notice how quickly Ward reads run and is up in the box to support the front 6; that’s how you do it from the safety position with a quick read and a quick reaction. Robertson does his job and is there for the cleanup.

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RUFIO: Now this is how you bottle the ball-carrier up.


Week 3 vs. Buffalo

1st and Goal – solid play recognition; beats OG to spring into backfield and make tackle for loss

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RUFIO: This is sort of a weird formation with Patterson as the nickel back in almost a "Mike" linebacker spot. And I think he’s reacting to the WR lined up as an H back. We’re in a single-high coverage and Buffalo is trying to spread us out so that they can run the ball. Remember two plays ago how we had the 2LBs covering 3 gaps based on flow? Buffalo is trying to use that reaction based on flow to beat us by going to a counter play. They are hoping we flow with the back’s initial action so he can cut back through that remaining open gap.

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RUFIO: Robertson does read the flow to his side and he shoots the gap they wanted, but the guard doesn’t get off of his initial double team fast enough to block Robertson. Without seeing it live I can’t tell if it is a great play by Robertson, a bad play by the guard, or if the back was so indecisive that Robertson had more time to make the play.

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Regardless, Robertson is seen here shedding the block from the OG and getting behind the defense in pursuit of the ball carrier.

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Week 4 vs. Baltimore

2nd and 3 – INT in end zone on coverage play

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RUFIO: This is a really weird endzone defense. Honestly from the screen-shots I have no idea what it is. Robertson seems to recognize the smash route and know exactly where to go, though I’ve never seen a zone technique that looks like what he played and it really doesn’t look like he was in man. But I’ll take an INT in the end-zone all day, and even better if it is vs. the Ratbirds.

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Week 4 vs. Baltimore

2nd and 19 – open field tackle vs. Ray Rice on screen pass

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Here we see the Browns in a 4-2-5 Over with 2 safeties playing deep over the top. Robertson is locked into Ray Rice, as shown here.

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Here we can see the beginnings of a textbook screen pass and we can already see Robertson reacting as Flacco is just beginning to bring the ball back to deliver the pass.

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RUFIO: Their OL does a good job but not good enough to get someone up to block Robertson. One of the strengths of a spot dropping zone defense is that your players have their eyes in the backfield and can react quickly to plays like this. Robertson does, and makes a good open field tackle on Rice.

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Week 7 vs. Indianapolis

2nd and 7 – Play recognition; strong tackle short of first down vs. Wayne

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RUFIO: We’re in Cover-1 with a “rat in the hole” or a “robber” as a zone player underneath. Robertson is that zone player.

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RUFIO: The Colts get a good route vs man in that shallow cross and they run a “slash release” by picking him off of the other receiver to make it even better. Robertson sees this coming and comes up to make a play. I believe TJ Ward is the player in coverage on the Dig route behind the shallow cross (again, it’s the “Drive” concept).

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Robertson does a great job recognizing the play and ensuring he takes the right angle, in combination with his speed, to stop Wayne just short of the first down.

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Week 14 vs. Kansas City

Dump off recognition and open field tackling

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This is a similar play from what we've seen earlier in that we see both Robertson and Jackson dropping back in zone coverage. As pointed out earlier, this allows the linebackers to peer into the back field and diagnose underneath routes or dump passes. As shown in the previous snips in this sequence, Robertson has had his eye on the RB the entire time.

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Good pursuit angle, good closing speed ( clearly evident when watching live film ) and good technique on the open field tackle.

Week 15 vs. Washington

Poor coverage against TE, but strong tackle in open field

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RUFIO: That’s just bad coverage. Looks like we’re in a 3-deep, 4-under zone and oddly it looks like we are pattern matching the zone.

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RUFIO: If Robertson is indeed the zone player furthest to that side, he can’t allow that easy of a completion, as we will see here in a moment.

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This is where we begin to see Robertson fall behind in coverage.

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That space is more evident here.

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Here he is able to recover and beat the stiff arm to make the shoelace tackle on the sideline. Had he not been able to make this tackle, the TE would have had much more YAC.

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