Browns receiver starting to click

By Mary Kay Cabot

Cleveland Plain Dealer


Former Browns offensive coordinator and current Atlanta Falcons receivers coach Terry Robiskie was preparing for his 4 p.m. kickoff against the Seahawks last week when the locker room attendant rushed over and said, “Your son just made a heck of a catch for a 46-yard touchdown!”

Robiskie, who’s helped coach his son Brian from pee wee-ball to his days at Chagrin Falls High, Ohio State and now with the Browns, couldn’t help but get choked up.

“As I stood there in the doorway, my heart and my eyes got full,” said the elder Robiskie. “I was just so happy for him and how far he’s come. I know all of the work he’s put into this and the time spent on the job. We often tell our players, ‘You get what you earn.’ He’s starting to get what he’s earned, and I couldn’t possibly be prouder of him.”

Before his own game against the Seahawks began, Terry Robiskie fired off a quick text message to his son, which Brian was surprised to see right after the Browns’ 19-17 loss to the Bengals. Later that night, when Terry finally got a chance to talk to him, he did what only a great NFL receivers coach would do: He scolded his son for holding the ball out precariously the last 5 yards of his TD — the first of his NFL career.

“He said: ‘No. Don’t do it,’” said Brian Robiskie. “Then he said, ‘Good catch.’”

But Robiskie couldn’t have been happier for his son, who’s coming on strong down the stretch after spending two games on the inactive list earlier this season — including the first meeting against the Ravens in Week 3.

After catching only two of nine passes thrown his way in the first two games, Robiskie earned a trip to the bench for the next two outings against Baltimore and Cincinnati. But instead of complaining or questioning the coaches, Robiskie did what his dad taught him to do since he was a youngster: work hard, maintain a great attitude and prove yourself on the field.

“I’ve sat and watched Brian all year and watched him work,” said Terry Robiskie. “I think the thing that keeps me smiling each week are those times when I watch him get knocked down, get up and keep right on going. In the Cincinnati game, he got knocked down right before the half with about 16 seconds left — there was a flag [on Roy Williams for a personal foul that was offset]. I thought for a minute he might be down for the count. But he was right back on his feet and managed to catch the touchdown to bring his team within two late in the game. That makes a dad smile. I just kept saying to him over and over and over, ‘Just keep working.’”

The touchdown catch was Robiskie’s 16th catch over the past four games — the most by a Browns wideout during that span. Overall, he caught five passes against the Bengals for 82 yards, his career high and the most by a Browns receiver this season. The surge has followed a season full of questioning by fans and media if Robiskie — the Browns’ second of three second-rounders last season — has what it takes.

“I don’t really think the light’s been off, I think it’s just had a chance to shine a little bit brighter,” said Browns coach Eric Mangini. “It’s hard to predict when it’s going to start clicking for a guy. You’ve got to keep working, and that little bit [of improvement] is enough to help you get open. Once it starts hitting, those chances tend to increase.”

Robiskie’s breakout game came in Week 11 against Carolina when he caught seven passes from Jake Delhomme for 50 yards. He caught two over the next two weeks and then stood out again in Cincinnati, catching the five for 82 and the long TD at the end from Colt McCoy.

“I don’t think there’s been any difference,” said Brian Robiskie. “When you’ve got passes that go in [for you], there are chances to catch the ball. Colt’s doing a great job, and the line’s doing a great job protecting. If everybody works together, the receivers get the ball.”

In Robiskie’s first six games back after being inactive for two weeks, he rarely had the ball thrown his way and caught only seven passes for a season total of nine. What’s more, he was completely shut out in back-to-back losses to the Jets and Jaguars.

During that time, Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll continued to say Robiskie needed to get off the line of scrimmage faster and do a better job of getting open. Robiskie kept working at it, and improved so much that his dad has been using him as an example in his own film room.

“This year has been outstanding for me because we’ve played a lot of the same teams,” said Terry Robiskie. “Not only do I get to watch him, I get to show his tape to my guys and say, ‘See, this is what I keep telling you to do.’”

Brian Robiskie has made a dramatic turnaround from the two first games where he caught 2-of-9. Over the past four outings, he’s caught 16 of the 18 passes thrown to him for 89 percent. Over the same span, Mohamed Massaquoi — who gets lower-percentage deep balls — has caught 12 of 23 passes thrown his way for 52.1 percent.

“That’s my goal is to make the most of balls that come my way,” said Robiskie.

At first, it seemed like perhaps Robiskie was dusted off by Delhomme and that the other quarterbacks might not have the same chemistry with him. But last week’s game in Cincinnati disproved that theory. McCoy threw to him early and often, including a 17-yarder over the middle after McCoy rolled to his right and threw across his body.

Mangini often likens Robiskie’s slow start in the league to that of Bills receiver Stevie Johnson and Jaguars receiver Mike Sims-Walker. Johnson caught a total of 12 passes and two TDs his first two seasons. He now has 72 catches for 943 yards and 10 TDs. Sims-Walker missed his first season with a knee injury and then caught 16 passes in 2008. This year, he’s got 42 catches for 531 yards and seven TDs. Robiskie caught seven passes as a rookie last year and has 25 for 240 yards this year.

“I never want to look at a guy in another situation and try to directly compare him to myself because his situation is different,” said Robiskie. “Like coach said, ‘It’s a matter of making the most of your opportunities.’”