Caldwell backs improving Robinson on body slam

David Goricki
The Detroit News
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Lions defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson picks up and then throws down Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, picking up a penalty in the third quarter.

Allen Park — Lions rookie defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson is trending upward late in his rookie season and was on the field at AT&T Stadium on Monday for his most snaps this season, in a 42-21 loss to the Cowboys.

Robinson is used to playing in big games, having helped Alabama win the national championship before getting picked by the Lions in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft.

Robinson has started three consecutive games, and four of the last five. He was at his best against the Cowboys, getting in on 39 plays, or 68.4 percent of the snaps, the first time he’s played more than 50 percent of a game.

Robinson, 21, made a big stop on Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott for no gain at the Lions’ 40 during the third quarter, with Dallas holding a 28-21 lead. But he picked up a penalty for unnecessary roughness for picking Elliott up on that play and slamming him to the turf.

The penalty gave the Cowboys the ball at the Lions’ 25 and they went on to score a touchdown on Dez Bryant’s 10-yard toss to Jason Witten to open a 35-21 lead.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said Tuesday he didn’t feel Robinson’s play was a penalty.

“I’ll give you the same answer that I did last night,” Caldwell said Tuesday. “When I saw it happen, I didn’t think it was a penalty, and I don’t think it’s a penalty today. But, like I said, we have mechanisms to go about that, talk about it and make certain that the league hears how we feel about those certain things and we’d like to change that protocol rather than complain about things that really, to me, borders in on certain excuse-making.

“So I don’t want to have any part of it.”

Would Caldwell coach Robinson to do things any differently?

“We believe in abiding by the rules,” said Caldwell, “and I think he was within the framework of the rules.”

It was a pivotal play, especially since Robinson, at 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds, stopped Elliott — who has rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns this season — and then suddenly 15 yards got tacked on by the penalty.

Still, Caldwell said he has been encouraged by Robinson’s play of late, with the best is yet to come.

“Every single week he’s making I think good, steady progress with his fundamentals and techniques, so he’s improving and it happens often times with young players and the more they play the better they get,” Caldwell said. “He’s one of those guys who has come along pretty strong and with his size in what he’s done in terms of knocking passes down and things of that nature. He’s starting to make all the plays that show up, and obviously he hasn’t scratched the surface yet.”

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