Alabama Star in ‘Divide-&-Conquer’ Plan for Struggling NFL Defense

Alabama 2015

Getty The Alabama defense swarms to the ball during the Cotton Bowl on December 31, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.

The last time the New York Giants had to defend the run, the Philadelphia Eagles ate up 268 rushing yards on them.

Muscle inside and a hard-to-move presence was needed for the G-Men. Now, the Giants are turning to a past Alabama Crimson Tide star as part of what SB Nation called on Friday, July 7 a “divide-and-conquer” approach for 2023: A’Shawn Robinson.

“The New York Giants took a divide-and-conquer approach to upgrading their defensive line this offseason rather than making a big splash. A’Shawn Robinson was one of the later additions to solidify a run defense that was the NFL’s worst a season ago,” wrote Rivka Boord of SB Nation’s Big Blue View.

Robinson Won Super Bowl Off Disrupting the Run Game

Robinson is most likely revered among Crimson Tide fans for being a prized five-star signing for the 2013 class and earning consensus All-American honors in 2015. He even led ‘Bama in sacks as a true freshman in 2013 — a rare feat under Nick Saban as he rarely plays true freshmen defenders.

Robinson may have ended his season on injured reserve and witnessed the Los Angeles Rams’ stunning 5-12 collapse after winning Super Bowl 56. But when healthy, the massive and powerful 6-foot-4, 320-pounder is a run offense’s nightmare.

Robinson brings the kind of knock back power that can put even the most towering of tackles and guards in a backpedal. His leverage and power was rarely discussed in the City of Angels, as the trench attention always centered on the dominance and sack pileup from Aaron Donald.

But in reality, Donald would never have space to work with if it weren’t for Robinson aligned next to him. Robinson handled (or manhandled) the dirty work for the Rams by freeing up rushers like Donald to finish off the destruction. The same was the case for Von Miller during his brief time with the Rams — as defensive coordinator Raheem Morris often threw looks against offenses where Robinson was the one clearing a path for Miller.

“In his career, Robinson’s biggest strength has been his disruptiveness in the run game,” Boord wrote. “In 2022, he tied for fourth out of 82 qualified interior defensive linemen (min. 175 run defense snaps) with a 10.5% stop rate. This means on 10.5% of his run defense snaps, he made a tackle that resulted in a negative Expected Points Added (EPA) for the offense.”

Giants Edge Rush Room Anticipated to See Benefits of Robinson’s Power

During the time Robinson and Donald were lined up in the same trenches, “A.D” collected 22 total sacks from 2020 to 2022 with the Alabama standout next to him.

Robinson’s game doesn’t involve pass rushing (he only produced two sacks in his time in L.A.). But his game is more tailored for pass rushers needing a gridiron locksmith to open doors up for them.

This bodes greatly for the top five pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. In 14 games he produced a rather uninspiring four sacks. But following the divisional round thrashing at the hands of the Eagles, Thibodeaux let it be known that he’s got a “chip on his shoulder” moving forward and that he’s going to be “grinding.” With Miller getting eight sacks in a Rams uniform and Donald’s production next to Robinson, perhaps Thibodeaux can witness a spike in his own sack total.

But it’s not just Thibodeaux who could see higher production and more space to attack the passer. Azeez Ojulari saw a decline in his sack production by going from eight his rookie season to 5.5 in 2022 as he was limited to seven games with five starts. Staying healthy, and lining up next to Robinson on the edge could see either a repeat of his rookie year or something higher.

Jihad Ward is one more who could witness the benefits of Robinson’s hands and power. Ward has never surpassed three sacks in a season. The eight-year veteran has the chance to surpass that mark as Robinson becomes the one to command the attention on the line. Even the newly immensely wealthy Dexter Lawrence (signed $90 million deal in offseason) could see his own sack numbers go up next to Robinson — making him the new “A.D” for the past Tide defender.

Through Robinson, the Giants have someone who can immediately ensure the 268 yards the Eagles ground game collected can stay in the past. And finally, the Giants received a rare gift of interior help for a run defense that was 27th in yards allowed — by bringing in the past Alabama national title winner.

“In a run-focused role, Robinson could provide significant help for the Giants’ defense,” Boord said.

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