In any sports league, there’s always that one player who when you see step on the field/court/rink, you let out a big sigh and roll your eyes. “This guy again”, you mutter to yourself and teammates. Yes, that guy. The guy who you know plays a little dirty, who will always be right up in your face, and who takes the game way too personal.
He may be the hockey player who is always looking for a blindside hit. He may be the basketball player who is constantly reaching in and fouling you. Or in this case, he may be the pesky 5’8”, 187 lb. cornerback from Louisiana Tech who is pushing you around at the line of scrimmage. Getting in your face and flexing on you after he forces an incomplete pass. Trash talking before, during, and after every play.
Amik Robertson is that dude. He’s the guy you hate playing against, but when you finally get that type of guy on your team, you absolutely love him. Suddenly all those blindside hits are just “part of the game”. Those annoying fouls are now just tight defense and the referees were bribed to whistle against us. That yapping cornerback is now the heart and soul of the team.
I hate player comparisons, but if I had to choose one for Amik Robertson, it wouldn’t be Tyrann Mathieu, the Honey Badger, whom he is often compared to. It wouldn’t be a football player at all. If I had to compare Amik Robertson to someone, it would be former Houston Rocket and current Los Angeles Clipper Patrick Beverley.
Patrick Beverley is a prime example of the player you hate to play against, but love him when he’s on your team. He’s a high effort, dive on the court for loose balls kind of guy. He defends the best player on the opposite team even if that player is eight inches taller than him. He’ll stand up for any teammate and start fights. Beverley brings fire and passion that make it impossible not to cheer for him when he’s on your team.
Amik Robertson brings those qualities to the football field. Not only is he one of the better cornerbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft, but he’s one of the most fun players to root for and watch. Robertson, at 5’8” and 187 lbs., is destined to play nickel in the NFL, but by watching his college film, you can tell he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into just one position. He wants to play against the best. He doesn’t want his size to dictate where he can or cannot play. He plays with heart and that’s all that matters to him.
Robertson is my favorite player in the draft to watch. I love his physicality and attitude. I love a trash talking cornerback who gets in the wide receiver’s face on every play. I love his elite athleticism and how he recklessly flies around the field to make plays.
Robertson brings a junkyard dog level of physicality, and this first play is a perfect example of why I think he’s the Patrick Beverley of football. Amik (#21) is lined up at the top of the screen, against WR Malcom Epps (#86). If you couldn’t tell, Epps is a massive human being, measuring in at 6’6” and 245 lbs. This is an unfair heavyweight versus lightweight match-up, but Amik doesn’t care. He takes the fight to Epps and punches him in the chest. Epps is slightly stunned and tries to fight back. Amik quickly punches Epps in the chest again and pushes him into the sideline. The ball is thrown, Amik turns his head to find the ball, he boxes out Epps, and he breaks up the pass. He’s furious at himself for missing the interception.
Amik has no business lining up on the outside and facing these huge receivers. Texas had two of them in 6’6”, 245 lb. Epps and 6’6”, 220 lb. Collin Johnson. Just like Beverley (6’1) refusing to guard anyone but Kevin Durant (6’10) in the NBA Playoffs, Amik refuses to guard anyone but skyscraper receivers.
On this next play, Amik gets a great jam on Collin Johnson (#9) at the line of scrimmage. He shoots his arms inside of Johnson’s chest, and even though he has a severe length disadvantage, Amik fights his heart out. He’s in great position until Johnson swims over Amik and creates some space. But Amik did just enough to throw off Johnson’s timing with the quarterback, resulting in an overthrow and an incomplete pass.
Here Amik is at the bottom of the screen in off coverage. Texas decides to test Amik deep, trying to take advantage of the height disparity. Amik plays this like a seasoned veteran. He sticks to Johnson’s hip pocket, slightly holding onto him. Then at the last second, he takes his hands off of Johnson and turns to find the ball. Since he did those two things, the referee is very unlikely to call pass interference on Amik. He put Johnson in a very tough position to catch the ball and he got rewarded for it. Rarely does anyone take advantage of Amik’s height.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Amik in his fight against Johnson. On this rep, Johnson is sick of Amik and punches him in the chest first. This pushes Amik back a good three yards off the line of scrimmage and gives Johnson tons of space to work with. Amik tries to fight back into the play, but there’s just not much he can do. He eventually latches onto Johnson to help make the tackle but is admittedly rag dolled in the process. If Amik loses the jam at the line of scrimmage against these huge receivers, he’s usually going to lose the rep. That’s my biggest worry about why he’s likely limited to playing in the slot in the NFL. No matter how hard he tries, there are just some match-ups that he can’t physically win. Offensive coordinators will hunt Amik with their bigger receivers.
I’m confident Amik can cover smaller receivers as an outside cornerback. This is where his physicality is even more apparent; he looks like the heavyweight fighter now. Amik is in press man coverage at the bottom of the screen. He hand fights with the receiver (#19) and squeezes him into the sideline; using it as an extra defender and reducing the amount of space the receiver has to work with. When the receiver makes his break and comes back to the ball, Amik is right there, following him like a pesky little fly. He jumps forward to make a play on the ball and is successful. He fights for the ball and just wants it more, wrestling it away, standing up and letting the receiver hear it. There’s that patented Amik Robertson trash talk.
Here’s more physical press man coverage with Amik on the outside. Amik baits the receiver’s (#16) hands and then punches him in the shoulder, throwing off the timing of the release. Amik gets two hands on the receiver and squeezes him to the sideline. The receiver tries to fight off Amik to no avail. Amik smoothly turns his hips to the inside, finds the ball, and high-points it for the Interception.
Amik has shown the ability to thrive on the outside against college receivers, but as I mentioned before, playing outside cornerback in the NFL at his size is unprecedented. Teams will want him to move to the nickel, and luckily, he has experience playing there as well. Here Amik is lined up in the slot in some sort of pattern match zone. He shuffles his feet backwards as the receiver (#16) gets closer. Once the receiver makes his break on a corner route, Amik follows suit. You can see his short area acceleration on full display. He gets right into the receiver’s hip pocket, high-points the ball, and has a near pick. This is a great display of his ability to dominate from the slot.
On this play, Amik is matched up with Ja’marr Chase. Chase is arguably the top receiver in the nation, but he isn’t eligible for the NFL Draft until 2021. In the past season, Chase destroyed any cornerback that got in his way. It didn’t matter who he was lined up against, he embarrassed everyone he was matched up against. So Amik, with his dog mentality, stepped up to the fight and shadowed him all over the field. The result? Chase finished the game with 2 catches for 30 yards.
Now Amik is lined up in the slot against Chase (#1) and gets physical with him, jamming him at the line of scrimmage. Chase tries to push him off and run an out route but Amik is right in his hip pocket, not allowing any separation. Consensus #1 overall pick Joe Burrow doesn’t even look Chase’s way; he’s tired of dealing with the pesky Robertson. Amik was able to take away the best receiver in the nation and helped make the best quarterback in the nation look awful. Burrow finished the game 16-28 for just 191 yards.
Amik’s violent in coverage and when tackling. Amik flies all over the field, which is why people often compare him to Tyrann Mathieu. On this play, Amik is playing Cover 2, where he is responsible for the flat zone. He jams the initial receiver and keeps his eyes on the quarterback. He sees the tight end leaking out into the flat and flies towards him like a heat-seeking missile to make the tackle for a loss.
There’s plenty more of these examples where Amik blows up a play by making a special tackle. He is aggressive in pursuit of the football and has solid tackling technique. He will quickly close the space between him and the ball carrier, then stutter for a second to read the opposing player’s leverage. Finally, he will burst forward, wrapping up low and securing the tackle. Below are a couple more great tackling plays from Amik. This skill is essential for a slot cornerback who lines up closer to the box; it’s a luxury for outside cornerbacks.
Amik also has great playmaking skills in zone coverage. He amassed 14 interceptions and 24 pass break-ups during his college career. Many of these came in zone coverage.
Amik’s elite ball skills are a valuable asset for any team. On this play, the defense is in Cover 3 and Amik is responsible for a deep third of the field. He notices the quarterback looking at the slot receiver; once he winds up the throw, Amik is off to the races. He jumps the route, leaps through the air, and comes down with the interception. Then he shows off some of his return skills with the ball in his hands. Amik is going to have plenty of pick-sixes in his career.
Again, Amik Robertson is my favorite player in the 2020 NFL Draft. He defies all odds of what should be physically possible. He plays with a fire that can never be put out. He steps up to every challenge in his path. He never backs down. His tight man coverage, aggressive tackling, and ball skills make him an extremely valuable player. He can take some snaps on the outside if he’s matched up against smaller, less physical receivers. But even if he’s matched up against the Julio Jones, Mike Evans, or DeAndre Hopkins of the world, you can bet Amik is gonna play his heart out.
Robertson is the player you hate to play against, but love him when he’s playing for your team. We’re in that very predicament right now. There are 31 other teams who could draft him. If so, I will follow his journey and root for him no matter which team he ends up on. The second we have to play Amik, I’ll be just as irritated as the wide receiver he is trash talking and locking down. I hope it never gets to that point, and we all have the luxury of getting to cheer for Amik Robertson on our Houston Texans.