Notebook: Rookie cornerback Josh Robinson has his role expanded
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the decision to start rookie Josh Robinson at the left cornerback spot on Sunday against Tennessee does not signal an immediate transition to remove Antoine Winfield from the base defense.
However, rotating the rookie and 14-year veteran - both play when the Vikings are in their nickel defense - is an obvious indication that the team is hoping it has found Winfield's eventual successor.
"We know at some point we're hoping that Josh develops to the point where he can be our starting corner," Frazier said. "That's why we drafted him when we did. We want him to eventually be a starting corner for us. When that transformation occurs, (I'm) not sure. It will be a part of his development.
"We know what we're going to get from Antoine. He's been playing great football for us in these first weeks of the season. We're going to need him throughout the year. Part of what we're doing is just trying to take some snaps off of Antoine along with developing Josh. We're hoping that Josh continues to come along. He's been playing good for us."
Winfield, who had his first interception of the season on Sunday, said after the Vikings' win that he was fine last week when told that Robinson would start and that the team wanted to get the speedy third-round pick out of Central Florida into the base defense at times. Robinson had the Vikings' only interception of the season entering Sunday's game.
The 35-year-old Winfield is very aware of the fact that an occasional rest will help keep him fresh.
Winfield's veteran leadership is valued in the Vikings' locker room and his speech to the entire team after the Week 2 loss at Indianapolis has been credited with helping set the wheels in motion for this current three-game winning streak.
Depending on how Robinson plays, there would seem to be a possibility the Vikings could keep up a rotation between him and Winfield in the base defense. Keep in mind, the Vikings spend much of the time in the nickel defense, which places Winfield, Robinson and Chris Cook all on the field.
In those situations, Winfield moves inside.
Safety Jamarca Sanford is one Viking who thinks Winfield has plenty of football left in him and won't be going anywhere soon.
"He loves the game," Sanford said. "There's no doubt in my mind that he'll play again next year. The only thing that'll stop him is injuries."
Brinkley stays in the nickel
Erin Henderson returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing two games because of a concussion, but the weak-side linebacker was the odd man out when an extra defensive back was employed on passing downs.
In the opening two weeks, middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley was removed from the field in the nickel, but Brinkley played well enough in wins over San Francisco and Detroit that he kept his role in those situations.
"I was just sitting down talking to Erin Henderson about his role and how things will be going forward," Frazier said. "Jasper has done a good job in Erin's absence playing the nickel (middle linebacker) position, really increased our confidence in his ability to handle that role.
"As we go forward, we'll continue to talk about what will happen with Erin in that role. Erin did a good job in our base defense (Sunday but) didn't get any snaps in the nickel. The way Jasper's playing, it's hard to take him off the field in a nickel situation.
"He's doing a great job. He's grown. He always felt like he could do it if we gave him the opportunity and he's showing that he's capable. But we do think Erin is good at the nickel mike as well."
Brian Robison, who had a career-high eight sacks last year, finally got his first one of the season early in the first quarter Sunday against Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
"It took five games so hopefully -- they say that sacks come in bunches -- that is the beginning of a bunch," said Robison, the Vikings' starting left end. "I've been working hard trying to get there, rushing my butt off, doing all the things the defense is calling. For it to finally have happened feels good, but the bottom line is we're winning ball games and that's what I am concerned with."
Robison admitted that bringing down Hasselbeck wasn't easy.
"He tried to get away," Robison said. "When I hit him, I only got one arm and I was like I have got to just hold on for dear life. I went down and I saw that he still had the ball so I just started gator-rolling on him. I was just trying to get him down, and I saw the ball come out right as he hit. Of course, I jumped up and said. 'He's down, he's down!'"
No looking back
Frazier has had success as a head coach at FedEx Field, where the Vikings will play the Redskins on Sunday.
After Brad Childress was fired as the Vikings coach in 2010, Frazier earned his first victory as the team's interim coach on Nov. 28 in Washington. Last season, the visiting Vikings earned one of their three victories when they beat the Redskins on Christmas Eve.
Of course, Adrian Peterson did suffer torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in that game.
So what does Frazier think of being back in Washington?
"It's completely irrelevant from my standpoint," he said. "You guys have heard me say this before: Every year in the National Football League is a different year as we all know. You hear this team is going to be this, this team is going to be that. ...
"I guarantee (Redskins coach) Mike Shanahan and his staff don't care about what happened when we went to Washington a year ago. We're not concerned about what happened a year ago. We'd like to believe we're a different football team. I'm sure they're a different football team. I haven't seen any tape on them.
"But it has no relevancy on what we have to get done this week. This is sure to be a different team. I know it's a different team with a different quarterback. We've got a lot of work to do to go on the road and win against the Washington Redskins. What happened a year ago, two years ago, won't even be talked about from any of our coaches or players."