FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.-- Dunta Robinson likes to surprise people on the football field, but not necessarily by jumping a pass route.
He likes to hit people. Hard.
"I don't think you see many cornerbacks play the way I do," said Robinson, a six-year veteran who signed a free-agent deal with the Falcons over the weekend. "I don't know one cornerback that hits the way I do. A lot of guys can cover, a lot of guys can run around, but can you hit a 220-pound running back or a 250-pound tight end and make him look at you like 'That little guy didn't just hit me?'
"That's my style of play and I love it."
Robinson, a 5-foot-10, 182-pound athlete originally from Athens, Ga. joins the Falcons with 13 career interceptions and countless big hits. He started for the Texans as a rookie in 2004, recording six interceptions and introducing himself to the league with a swagger reserved for veteran defensive backs.
But that's not all he could bring to the Falcons starting in 2010.
You see a twinkle in the eye of General Manager Thomas Dimitroffwhen he talks about Robinson -- another addition in the process to add "speed and urgency" to the team's defense.
The Falcons put together back-to-back winning seasons over the past two years thanks, in part, to passionate and physical play. But rebuilding a defense to fully meet that style takes time. It started with the selection of hard-hitting linebacker Curtis Loftonin the 2008 NFL Draft, followed by the first-round selection of nimble defensive tackle Peria Jerryin 2009.
It continues with Robinson, who enters 2010 with 382 career tackles and 63 passes defensed.
"I really feel Dunta has the skill set you're looking for in a No. 1 corner," Head Coach Mike Smithsaid Monday. "This past season the Texans, as Dunta said, used him as the guy to shadow the No. 1 receiver. That gives us an option here. I think the thing Dunta has is a complete game. We talked about his ability to tackle and that is very important. I think tackling is a lost art in this league and I think it's very important. I think that's the thing that stands out the most in regards to his skill set."
What the Falcons actually do with Robinson remains to be seen. Through the first two years with Smith at the helm, the team worked primarily in zone defenses, assigning roles of "right" and "left" cornerbacks. If Robinson shadows a team's top receiver -- wherever he is on the field -- the scheme opens up to more creative play calling.
His physical play alone should help disrupt a receiver's timing at the line of scrimmage.
Robinson said he's prepared to face the best receivers in the NFC South because of his experience against Peyton Manning and Colts' Pro Bowlers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
Wayne had 11 catches for 83 yards and a score in two games against the Texans last season. Robinson also drew the assignment of Randy Moss (five catches for 75 yards, no touchdowns), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (four catches for 53 yards, no touchdowns) and Terrell Owens (five catches for 39 yards, no touchdowns) in 2009.
When passes are completed against Robinson, he uses his aggressive nature to get turnovers. He had three forced fumbles as a rookie.
"Dunta Robinson is very fast. He is very aggressive, very physical," Dimitroff said. "He has an uncanny ability, in our mind, to dig the ball out and make plays on the ball. He is very confident and he has -- and you will see the way he carries himself -- an element of swagger we definitely are looking for on this football team to help this young defense and to help this young secondary. We are really excited about having Dunta help this team move in that direction. That is very important to us."
Dimitroff met Robinson in 2004. Then a scout for the Patriots, the Falcons general manager had a feeling he'd one day work with the cornerback with fluid hips and ball skills. In six years in the NFL, Robinson has also developed his leadership qualities.
He said he's excited to work with Brent Grimesand Christopher Owens-- incumbent starters who have a combined three years experience.
He also rattled off names of other players on defense as if he's all ready spent time in the locker room.
In time, they too will see Robinson's hard-hitting skill set.
And experience the advantages of having him on the defense.
"We have it on the front end, we have it in the middle and I'm that piece I think that can help get it done on the back end." Robinson said Monday evening. "I think it's going to be a great season. I think the future is bright for this program."