Training Camp

Danielle Hunter vs. Brian Robison: The Camp Battle Begins

The Vikings have a number of players to keep an eye on throughout training camp, but this year does not feature a plethora of story lines that involve young players potentially stealing a veteran’s role in the starting lineup. The most marquee camp battle of this nature perhaps resides at the left end position where it is Danielle Hunter vs. Brian Robison.

Hunter’s rookie season featured six sacks, more than he accumulated in three season at LSU, which meant that his “raw” label was either incredibly overblown or he’s a super fast learner… or both. Hunter now has plenty of attention as a bright young star, with mainstream lists pegging him as likely to break out in 2016, and his intimidating mix of size and athleticism will prove impossible for opposing coordinators to ignore.

Ahead of Hunter on the depth chart is Robison, a defensive end that knows a thing or two about being patient, as he had to wait his fair share before replacing Ray Edwards as the Vikings starter at left end despite plenty of evidence suggesting he was plenty capable.

Mike Zimmer is known for his exotic rotations and schemes on defense, so the “starter” label may not be as important in modern day Minnesota as it once was, but there is no denying that Hunter is a threat to Robison’s playing time.

And Robison knows it.

“I’m confident in my abilities,’’ Robison told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press this week. “If I go out there and do everything that I do and at the end of the day, if he’s better than me and he takes my job, that’s the way it is. But at the end of the day, I’m here for one thing and one thing only, and that’s to win a Super Bowl.’’

In 2015, Robison played within the defense on 898 snaps while Hunter only played 392. Those numbers stand to be dramatically different by this season’s conclusion, and Robison sounds plenty willing to help his own situation by expanding his usefulness beyond the typical niche.

“Like I said, for me it’s about winning the Super Bowl,” he said. “And if that means I’ve got to kick down inside, do some rushes inside and give our team the best opportunity to have the best four rushers that we can have, if it means that I got to play some linebacker stuff and things like that, then I’ve got to do that.’’

The Vikings aren’t exactly ocean-deep at the defensive tackle position, so getting Robison more involved at that position on passing downs could make plenty of sense. Additionally, if the weak side linebacker position remains unsettled, it isn’t impossible that he does indeed get some snaps there.

Still, the main thing to watch is still that left end position, where eventually Robison’s storied career as a Viking will give way to a talented young monster that is 12 years younger than him. It could happen next season, or in the middle of this coming season, but right now we can’t help but wonder if a change doesn’t occur as soon as this month.

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Adam Warwas

Adam Warwas (Founder) has been writing about the Vikings for a total of eight years. Five of those years have been here at Vikings Territory where he continues to surround himself with enough talented individuals that people keep coming back. As proud as he is of what Vikings Territory has become, his real treasures are in his home... a beautiful wife and three amazing children (and a dog named Percy).

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  1. It is just my opinion, but I have always loved Robison’s attitude. He moved from inside to outside to fill a need and excelled. His motor never stops, he does remind me of Keith Millard in that regard. Quite clear that he is willing to concede the outside and move back inside on passing downs. Sounds like a formidable rushing attack along with their blitzing options.

  2. yes, i think this rotation did well at end of the year last year on passing downs – griffen/hunter on outside and robison/johnson on the inside or sometimes floyd and that is a pretty good rushing alignment as all of them are capable of double digit sacks if they played their natural position or were a 3 down player. I think we will see Barr be used a bit more as a rusher this year vs just as a situational blitzer.

  3. Adam and company, Robison has been consistently moving inside on passing downs for YEARS already. I can’t remember if he did so when he was backing up Ray Edwards, but he certainly kicked inside so that Everson Griffen could get on the field before Jared Allen left, and again for Hunter last year. I expect this rotation to continue this year, with a likely passing play line of, left to right, Hunter, Robison, Johnson and Griffen, barring injury or deterioration of skills. Honestly, I bet the folks at PFF could tell us that Robison has rushed the passer from the inside and outside at pretty comparable rates.

    1. Yes, I kind of glazed past that in the article, I guess, but Robison certainly has plenty of experience sliding inside on passing downs and has been doing it since the Ray Edwards days. Good note!