Amik Robertson: What the Lions are getting in their new CB

USA Today

Fresh off a trade to acquire one outside cornerback in Carlton Davis, the Detroit Lions added another in Amik Robertson. The former Raiders starter agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the Lions on the second day of the NFL’s free agent negotiating window.

Robertson’s signing is expected to become official on Wednesday afternoon. It gave me a little time to crashcourse his Raiders game film.

I was an Amik Robertson fan back in the 2020 NFL draft. He was my No. 68 overall prospect. Now, I’m an admitted sucker for small, aggressive, physical cornerbacks (we all have our weaknesses), and Robertson absolutely checked all those boxes during his college career at Louisiana Tech. The Raiders selected him in the fourth round of the draft that year and subsequently barely played him for two seasons. He fell out of sight, out of mind, another misfit prospect burned by a regime change and a coaching staff trying to change a player to fit their ideals instead of playing to his strengths. In Detroit, we call that “Marty Mornhinwheg,” but I digress…

It took two years and three head coaches for the Raiders to figure out that just because Robertson is only 5-foot-9 (in cleats) doesn’t mean he has to play in the slot. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. His tight hips and relative lack of lateral quickness, coupled with a bulldog mentality that craves the physicality and sprightly challenge of playing outside and proving everyone wrong, made him a terrible slot corner. And that’s largely how it played out for his first three seasons.

Josh McDaniels, in a rare stroke of good coaching, decided to ensconce Robertson where he belongs. Late in 2022, McDaniels opted to move Robertson into a full-time outside corner. His start at Pittsburgh late that season showed a more confident Robertson, and he’s a player who needs to show his exuberant confidence to thrive.

One of Robertson’s big issues inside was that he’s just not quick enough in small areas to tackle the shifter, quicker-than-fast slot receivers right after the catch. He doesn’t have that problem nearly as much on the outside, and it showed on film. Out in space against bigger wideouts, he’s an effective terminator of plays, even if the wideout makes the catch in front of him.

His 2023 game film is all over the map. I watched the All-22 of five Raiders games focusing strictly on Robertson: Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota and their second meeting with Kansas City.

The Lions game was a good one to watch. Fans looking for someone to replace the provocateur presence of now-departed C.J. Gardner-Johnson–Robertson is your man. When Jameson Williams dropped a pass with Robertson in coverage, No. 21 definitely let him know about it. He did the same when he sold a holding penalty in the red zone in the second quarter. Just as he did at Louisiana Tech, Robertson was at his best showing his fight/size of dog ratio is off the charts.

About the size: Robertson is short but not small. He’s powerfully, compactly built. The Raiders listed him at 183 but I’d say that shorts him a handful of pounds. He is physical and he is aggressive.

In coverage, he played a lot of right outside CB in Cover-1 and some off-man. He’s positionally savvy in zone and is quick to come off his coverage mark when the play goes elsewhere. No standing and watching for Robertson.

His play speed is good-not-great on the outside. Jameson Williams and Justin Jefferson were able to separate from him on cross-field routes, but they do that to pretty much everyone. Robertson does only have one speed and didn’t really show a “chase” gear, however.

Overall, Robertson looks like a replacement for Jerry Jacobs as the No. 2/No. 3 outside cornerback in Detroit. It’s easy to envision him coming into the lineup and playing outside when the opposing offense goes to a set with three or more wide receivers on the field, with Cam Sutton bumping inside. He’s a more instinctive cover man and more reliable all-around player than Jacobs or Kindle Vildor.

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