Detroit Lions defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson led all defensive linemen in 2016 with seven passes defended. When Robinson couldn't get to the quarterback, he had a knack for getting his hands up and still disrupting plays.
Robinson showed in Sunday's preseason opener in Indianapolis he still has a knack for getting his hands on the football -- he had two passes defended. In 2017, he's also hoping to get his hands on a few more quarterbacks while they still have the ball in their hands.
View photos from Detroit Lions training camp practice on Aug. 14, 2017.
Robinson had just a couple sacks last season as a rookie, but a better understanding of defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's attacking scheme and his role within it has him thinking more disruption this year.
"It's great for big guys to attack like that," he said of his fit in the scheme after Monday's walkthrough practice in Allen Park. "Once their momentum is moving forward, it's hard to get them off balance or be able to reach them or be able to cut them off."
Robinson admitted it was difficult initially coming from a read and react system in college to a one-gap attacking scheme, but having a veteran player like Haloti Ngata to help guide him was instrumental last season.
"Having Haloti made it a lot easier on me," Robinson said. "I just got here and stayed a little extra time working with him and coach Kris (Kocurek) to get things right."
That extra work is part of the reason why Robinson came on strong at the end of last season, which is somewhat rare for most rookies. Most first-year players hit a wall late in the season. Robinson broke right through that wall, which showed how more and more comfortable he became with his role in the defense.
Now there are bigger expectations for both Ngata and Robinson together as the starting duo in the center of Detroit's defensive line.
"It's just kind of hard to believe with a guy that big and strong ... is that he's stronger," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Robinson's maturation heading into his second season.
"He's, I think, running well. He had a pretty solid game the other day, did some of the things he's accustomed to doing. He put pressure on the quarterback knocking his guy back into the pocket and certainly when he gets a push it just ties in together with him getting his hand up in a throwing lane and tipping a few here and there. He's coming along well."
That strength was evident Sunday in Indianapolis. Colts offensive linemen had a tough time anchoring against Robinson, as he affected a number of plays in addition to the two knockdowns that didn't show up in the stat book. He's one of those players who hasn't been talked about a whole lot in training camp, but who's expected to become a big factor in the middle of Detroit's defense in his second season.