Flowery Branch – Some Falcons fans have seized on the loss to New England as cause for August angst. More specifically, they’re wondering where this great new defense went.
But here’s the thing: Dunta Robinson didn’t play against New England. Dunta Robinson hasn’t yet played as a Falcon. That will change.
He’s planning to work Friday, when the Falcons visit Miami, but he’s not certain he will. Because the Falcons would rather lose to the Dolphins 222-0 than have Robinson re-tweak his hamstring. Because he’s the single biggest reason this retooled defense could wind up being great.
Robinson uses the words “unstoppable force” to describe his aspirations for Falcons’ new D. He also applies them to himself: “I want to be an unstoppable force.”
Other Falcons have pointed to Robinson as the key to this D. Said Mike Peterson, the linebacker: “He’s going to take one side of the field and shut it down.”
Robinson: “I’m capable of doing that. I have done that. I have to come here and make a huge difference. I don’t mind putting that pressure on myself.”
He has spent the past few weeks trying not to put pressure on his hamstring. Blame Matt Ryan. Robinson was shadowing Roddy White on a post pattern and Ryan let fly. “I didn’t know he could throw it that far,” Robinson said. “He threw it 70 yards. He overthrew both of us.”
In the attempt to run down the ball, Robinson felt a tweak. Not a pull, not a tear, just a tweak. Seeing the man in whom they’ve invested $57.5 million over six seasons with even the hint of a hitch was enough to impel the Falcons to get cautious.
“It’s frustrating,” Robinson said. “It’s not fun sitting and watching football when you love to play football. At the same time, I know I’ll be needed for a 16-game stretch. They’re not going to need me sporadically.”
A word about DR the CB: He doesn’t refer to himself as a shutdown corner. “I’ve never seen one of those,” he said. “I’ve never seen a cornerback not give up a catch. That’s what ’shutdown’ means, isn’t it? That if they throw 100 balls, your man doesn’t catch one.”
Robinson’s preferred description: “I’m a playmaking corner, not a shutdown corner.”
Amplification: “I feel no one is supposed to be better than me, and I don’t consider that arrogance. If you don’t have that intensity and that belief and you line up against a great wide receiver, you’re not going to match their ability.”
A big-time corner has to believe in himself even when the last pass went for a touchdown, and whatever helps drive him onward and upward … well, such goads are golden. Robinson is still irked at having not made the Pro Bowl — “I should have made it as a rookie; I don’t know what happened” — and the Athens product will forever stew over having been passed over by the hometown Bulldogs.
“Their coach, Jim Donnan, has said he had nothing to do with it,” Robinson said. “He said it was the recruiting coordinator [Rodney Garner]. I still blame Donnan. He’s the coach. He should have overruled everybody.”
Robinson still takes pride in having gone 2-2 against Georgia while he played at South Carolina, a program he holds dear. “It’s about time for [the Gamecocks]. I’ve had enough third-place votes in the SEC East. I want to finish first.”
Here he smiled. “People keep saying South Carolina needs to get over the hump,” he said, “the way they say the Falcons need to get over the hump.”
He can do nothing more than root for his Gamecocks. Regarding the Falcons, Robinson can be the man who takes them higher, and his teammates know it. “Guys come up to me and say, ‘We don’t care what you’re doing now. We only care about Sept. 12th.’ ”
That’s the date of the Falcons’ opener in Pittsburgh. Dunta Robinson plans to be there.