Aug 15, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive back Brian Dixon (44) against the Tennessee Titans during a preseason game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Is Saints Rookie CB Brian Dixon Fixing to Take P-Rob's Job?

When  Saints rookie CB Brian Dixon made the New Orleans Saints’ final 53-man roster the other day, it came as quite a surprise to many of the folks that are both observers and fans of the team. With the Who Dat Nation still up in arms over the recent performance(s) of former first round draft pick CB Patrick Robinson (a.k.a. “P-Rob”), it would appear that the Saints STILL have a glaring issue with filling the starting number #2 CB position opposite of soon-to-be All-Pro CB Keenan Lewis. With the regular season only 6 days away from now, it’s an issue that Saints management must address sooner rather than later. My personal belief is that the coaching staff was impressed by the undrafted Dixon’s performance enough in both Training Camp and in the Pre-Season (on both defense and special teams) that they may be wanting to see the impressive rookie in action a bit more without risking losing him through exposure on the Practice Squad. It brings up an interesting thought: Is Brian Dixon fixing to take P-Rob’s job?

Allow me if I may to cut right to the chase, without “sugar-coating” it. The only reason Patrick Robinson is still even on this team is because he is a former first round (2010) draft choice, plain and simple (Saints management is likely reluctant to admit that the selection of P-Rob may have been a “bust”). He has been a huge disappointment since he arrived as a highly touted defender from Florida State; and his dreadful performances in back-to-back pre-Season games against the Colts and Ravens are indicative of the struggles that he has faced in his now 5th year with the team. Robinson was expected to be a prime candidate to finally step-up and take over that important #2 CB spot, and to say that he didn’t take advantage of the situation would be understating it completely.

  With 2nd round draft choice CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste still appearing to need more time to develop his potential and just recently-released former All-Pro CB Champ Bailey apparently no longer being the player he once was, it has been Dixon who has seized the moment and has made the most of his opportunity. Dixon was determined to make the team based on his special teams play, but his leaping interception against the Colts two weeks ago was definitely a play that stood out and caught the eye of both defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and secondary coach Wesley “Coach Crime Dawg” McGriff. He was a starter on special teams against the Colts and played just 22 defensive snaps – but made his presence felt. He followed that up with yet another impressive showing against the Ravens in the pre-season finale; with a pass break-up and more outstanding coverage on the punt and kickoff return units.

 

“I’m a team guy and this team is very important to me. I love all of my teammates and I’d do anything just to help this team win. If it’s me running down there on kickoff coverage, or punt coverage or jamming somebody up on punt return, that’s very important to the team. You have to have great guys and very dedicated guys who love to play those positions. I’m going to try and make it as one of those guys.” – Saints rookie UDFA CB Brian Dixon, prior to the Saints’ final pre-season game last week before making the final 53-man roster

 

In my opinion, Dixon’s achievement of earning a final roster spot with the Saints represents yet another genius move on the part of the Dynamic Duo (Loomis & Payton). It’s what they’ve become famous for: bringing in an undrafted but talented youngster from a small school that no one’s hardly ever heard of, who is the classic definition of a “low-risk, high-reward” ball-player. Dixon undoubtedly fits that mold. If he can indeed end up earning playing time in certain packages as the number #2 CB, he will certainly be yet another feather in Loomis’s (and the Saints scouting department led by Ryan Pace and Rick Reprish) cap.

The 6’0, 200 lb. Dixon has extremely quick hips and feet, and is super-fast (he ran an “unofficial” 4.34 at his Pro Day back in April) with outstanding ball skills, The only real knock on him, as it was with his twin brother Brandon (a 6th round draft pick back in May with the Jets; who was just released this past Saturday by New York and was signed to the Buccaneers’ Practice Squad), will be that he didn’t face top-caliber (as in the SEC or the PAC-12) Division 1 talent. Division II stardom doesn’t always translate when taking the biggest step of all into the NFL — but it would appear that Dixon has made the necessary adjustment to assimilate and adapt to the professional game.    

 

 

Dixon’s path to the NFL wasn’t always that easy, however. Division II football doesn’t even register on “the path to stardom” radar. Raised in the tiny beach town of Margate, Fla., (which is tucked in alongside prep football hotbeds such as Fort Lauderdale and Miami), twins Brian and Brandon Dixon grew up in a football-fueled scene where Division I scholarships and NFL contracts are rather commonplace. At Coconut Creek High School in nearby Pompano Beach where the twins were born and attended high school, Brian and Brandon saw former members of the Cougars football team achieve varying degrees of success.    

 

 

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul rose to stardom as one of the elite pass-rushers with Florida State and then the New York Giants; and QB Denard Robinson moved on to the University of Michigan and gave Big Ten defenses fits for three years. Several other teammates and friends were awarded Division I scholarships, creating an unspoken but expected top-level requirement on the aspiring athletes whose family traditionally was already a part of NFL history and culture. Football and family have always both been traditions for Brian and Brandon since they were born. Two of the Dixons’ cousins, including former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Benny Sapp, played professionally.    

 

 

Brian and Brandon received numerous offers to join their former teammates in Division I, but grade issues continually halted them before ultimately re-routing them. The academic shortcomings that they both experienced simultaneously, actually allowed the twin brothers’ perpetual (and almost co-dependent) partnership with one another to continue forward. Instead of divergent paths at FBS programs, the Dixon Brothers wound up at Division II power Northwest Missouri State; where they each displayed both the talent and ability to elevate the Bearcats’ defense while lining up opposite of each other at times.  

(Photo used with permission courtesy of Saints Tailgate.com)

(Photo used with permission courtesy of Saints Tailgate.com)

  Playing together since the Pop Warner level, Brian and Brandon often shared the field and nearly every life experience, but never the same position until junior college. (Miami (Ohio) was the only Division I school to court both twins as a “package deal”, out of high school). Current Big 12 schools West Virginia and Kansas State threatened to divide the duo for the first time; each committed on visits, Brian to Kansas State and Brandon to West Virginia. However, the academic issues began to start causing consequences and once again, the path to dividing them was open. It was thwarted when Brandon’s SAT scores weren’t accepted, and he enrolled at Joliet Junior College.    

 

 

Brian needed more credits to begin his upperclassman years in Manhattan, Kansas with the Wildcats, and decided to leave K-State to join his brother. Brandon then left Joliet and moved on to Northwest Missouri State, where Brian once again eventually followed him. The Bearcats basically received a clone of a cornerback that they had already pinned atop the depth chart after the spring session, and opposing offenses had to prepare to face not one but two “lockdown” corners.    

 

 

Dixon played in 25 games with 22 starts over two seasons and recorded 51 tackles, six interceptions and a recovered blocked punt for a touchdown. After recording 30 tackles and five interceptions as a junior, Dixon started all 12 games he appeared in as a senior and recorded 21 tackles, one interception, six passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. It was that performance which helped lead the Bearcats to the 2013 NCAA Division II Football Championship.    

 

 

The bottom line for me is this: I’m NOT surprised at all by Dixon’s sudden emergence. When I covered Dixon prior to the Draft as one of my player profiles in my Pre-Draft coverage at the previous site I worked for, I had seen the potential that Dixon brought to the table; and after the Saints signed him as a UDFA I said in another article that I wouldn’t be amazed if he even managed to make the Saints’ final 53-man roster. I won’t toot my own horn with the fact that Dixon did indeed make the roster, but rather I do prefer to express my concern over what easily in my opinion continues to be the Saints’ biggest weakness.  

 

 

Dixon is an outstanding young talent to be sure and it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to come in and contribute in the Saints’ defensive secondary rotations. At the worst, he’ll continue to make a significant impact upon the Saints’ special teams coverage units (something he excels at and is no doubt a determining factor of how and why he made the final roster), while carving out his role with the team. In the meanwhile as the young talent like Dixon and Baptiste continue to grow and develop, the Saints will have to figure out what to do about Robinson and his future with the team. Clearly he is not the answer as to who eventually is going to line-up on the side opposite of Lewis in 2014 and beyond.

Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) catches a touchdown pass against New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson (21) in the second quarter at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports


I fully expect that the Saints will use safety Jairus Byrd over the top in “bracket” coverage to cover that side, to compensate for not having a CB that they feel comfortable covering other teams’ top WR’s. CB Corey White could be pressed into that role more often than not, be he is much more effective playing in the nickel packages. No matter which way you choose to look at it, Robinson’s future with the team in my opinion is shaky at best. It opens the door for a young talent like Brian Dixon to show exactly what he can do; and try not to allow yourself to be too shocked when you hear the news someday that Dixon is fixing to take P-Rob’s job……………

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Tags: 2014 Saints Brandon Dixon Brian Dixon Northwest Missouri Sate University Patrick Robinson

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