06/17/2011 3:28 PM -
In a league that is dominated by passing offense, a team’s defensive back is one of the most important positions on the field. Defensive stops are not easy to come by in the AFL and a player that can make an impact on the game consistently is one of the most valuable components any team can have. As the 2011 season begins to wind down and as the playoff picture begins to take shape, certain players have begun to clearly separate themselves from the rest of the league. Headlining the list of elite defensive backs in the league is Jacksonville’s Micheaux Robinson.
Robinson established himself as one of the best defensive backs in the AFL after the 2010 season, which he snagged 7 interceptions and gathered 71 tackles. This season however, he has begun to cement himself as one of, if not, the best defensive back in the league. This season Robinson has 73.5 tackles with 7 interceptions, one fumble recovery and a league-leading 30 pass break-ups in only 12 games so far. Robinson is on pace for an AFL record 45 pass breakups 11 interceptions and 110.5 tackles on the season. These numbers are far more impressive than the numbers that he put up when he was awarded All-AFL Second Team by the AFL following the 2010 season.
Numbers alone however are not the defining statistic in determining how a defensive back has played. It is where those numbers were obtained. Arguably the other elite defensive backs in the league are Orlando’s Rayshaun Kizer, Chicago’s Vic Hall, and Andre Jones who was with the Milwaukee Mustangs but is now in the CFL. A good mark to how well a defensive back plays is how they perform when their team needs them the most.
The Predators' Rayshaun Kizer has played in five games against teams that have a winning record. In those games Kizer only has two of his 12 interceptions. Those two interceptions came in only one game against Georgia (7-6). His per game average in every statistical category drops dramatically against teams with a winning record. Kizer is able to dominate lesser teams but struggles to make much of an impact against the elite teams in the AFL.
Chicago’s Vic Hall is similar to Kizer. Hall has two interceptions versus teams with winning records, Cleveland (7-5) and Dallas (7-5) and only two pass breakups in those games as well. Five of Andre Jones’ nine interceptions came against four teams with winning records. The Sharks’ Micheaux Robinson however has four of his seven interceptions against teams with winning record, Georgia (7-6), Cleveland (7-5) and Orlando (8-4). He also has 14 pass breakups against winning teams as well.
Another comparison point is a defensive back’s effectiveness against the 10 best quarterbacks in the AFL as defined by Pass Efficiency. Rayshaun Kizer has five interceptions against the top ten quarterbacks. However, three of those interceptions came against one Quarterback, Utah’s Tommy Grady. Vic Hall only has two interceptions against top 10 quarterbacks. Andre Jones has five interceptions against four of the top ten quarterbacks in the league. The Sharks’ Micheaux Robinson has very similar statistics to Andre Jones. Robinson has 3 interceptions against top 10 quarterbacks but has an astounding 11 pass break ups in these games as well.
Robinson preys less on the ten worst quarterbacks as well. Vic Hall has 11 interceptions versus the 10 worst quarterbacks and 7 of those came against the 5 worst quarterbacks in the AFL. Robinson only has three against the ten worst and zero against the five worst.
The Jacksonville Sharks’ have one of the best and fastest scoring offenses in the AFL. This requires the Sharks’ defense to be on the field more. However while the Sharks’ have given up a lot of pass yardage they have, under the leadership of Robinson, limited opposing quarterbacks to the fourth worst pass efficiency in the league this year. Also under Robinson’s leadership and league leading 30 pass breakups the Sharks have been able to limit opponents to the fourth lowest point total per game in the AFL with just 46.5 points.
Sharks’ Defensive Coordinator Jake Grande says one of the things that sets Robinson apart is his dedication to his game. “ Micheaux’s preparation approach to practice each week is bar none. He takes a leadership role in the defense and acts as a mentor to all the defensive backs. His fearlessness and his ability to make plays week after week makes him one of the best in the League”
Micheaux Robinson may not have the statistics and sheer numbers as Chicago’s Vic Hall but Robinson does produce more consistently against the best teams and the best quarterbacks in clutch times. The ability to come up big in the moments your team needs you the most is the reason why Robinson has achieved elite defensive back status in the AFL.