Smarts, nasty side keep OL Corey Robinson in Lions' mix

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Throughout the offseason, Corey Robinson was in and out of the lineup due to injuries, raising questions about the offensive tackle’s chances of making the Detroit Lions roster. The team clearly saw potential in the 6-foot-7, 317-pounder they drafted in the seventh round the year before, but, as coaches like to stay, the best ability is availability.

Even though he played in just two exhibition games, the Lions liked what they saw. Not only did Robinson make the roster, he has served as the team’s primary backup all season. And when starting right tackle Riley Reiff was sidelined by an illness two weeks ago, Robinson stepped in and made his first start, justifying the organization’s faith in him.

“When you get that opportunity to make your first start, make that first contribution, you need to make an impression,” offensive line coach Ron Prince said. “Not just do your job, you need to make an impression. He left a very positive impression with all of us. At no stage in the game did you feel he was overwhelmed by the circumstances of he was unprepared.

“The judge of any young lineman is how he performs in two-minute,” Prince said. “I thought he performed admirably in that time and we were able to perform two nice scoring drives with him in there, in overtime and with (Matt) Prater kicking the field goal. Those are very positive things.”

Robinson’s been brought along slowly by the Lions. He was active for a single game as a rookie, where he was limited to four special teams snaps. This year, he’s been sprinkled into the lineup as a blocking tight end, where Prince says the core competencies of blocking are similar while offering a young player a valuable taste of playing time.

Offensive lineup Corey Robinson has been used as a backup to Riley Reiff.

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Off the field, Robinson is quiet and smart. He scored a 40 (out of 50) on the Wonderlic, an intelligence test given to all prospective draft picks. That’s two points better than quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“Corey is very bright,” Prince said. “He asks a lot of very smart questions. And if you ask him a question, quiz him on something, he almost always knows the answer. He’s dutiful in his note taking, he really studies it.”

On the field, the Lions like his physicality. Prince says Robinson has the mentality of a defensive player, always eager to hit, which makes him valuable in space.

“He’s got a nice, little, nasty mean streak in him,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s very quiet, but it’s kind of like that icy blue anger just below the surface, he has that.”

The sample size is still small with Robinson and Prince said it’s too early to project whether the lineman has the potential to be a long-term starter in this league. But that conversation will need to be explored this offseason when Reiff is scheduled to hit free agency.

What the Lions did learn is Robinson is capable if they need him in a pinch again this season.

“We know if he’s needed, he’ll do well,” Prince.

Twitter: @justin_rogers