It was a tough offseason for Patrick Robinson. After signing a “prove-it” deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, he immediately became a starter on the outside opposite Jalen Mills. A few turbulent months later in which his role and future with the team were constantly called into question, and the veteran has been playing at an incredibly high level inside.
It was a rollercoaster season on the outside with the Colts that led him to wading the free agency waters, but a jump to the starting spot was something he embraced. The Eagles then went on to draft an injured Sidney Jones and the lengthy Rasul Douglas to bolster the position. While Jones was expected to spend his rookie season learning from the sideline, Douglas had the potential to come in and steal a starting spot. This battle would headline Training Camp for the most part, with a flurry of young and hungry corners chomping at the bit for their opportunity.
For Robinson, the transformation at wide receiver would only work against him. Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery would find themselves burning the 29-year old on a regular basis. The play of Robinson would often be buried beneath the flashes of potential and promise showcased by the younger defensive backs on the roster. The problem seemed obvious. Robinson isn’t as strong on the outside as he is playing out of the slot.
Robinson’s campaign with the Chargers in 2015 was arguably the best season of his career, with 49 combined tackles, an interception, a FF, and 8 passes defensed. His numbers weren’t amazing, but a 55.9% completion rate allowed absolutely was. In his lone year there, Robinson showed the potential he had flashed at times playing for the Saints but was able to tie it together on a regular basis.
According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed 8.9 yards per catch during that lone season with San Diego, the best among corners targeted 40 times or more. When lined up in the slot, he allowed 0.78 yards per coverage snap, the second best among corners targeted over 200 times in the slot.
It would almost seem like fate then that when former Bills cornerback Ronald Darby arrived at the NovaCare Complex, he was dropped straight in the deep end with the starters. Robinson’s stock seemed to plummet, with the former first round pick being relegated to the third unit to begin with. But then, something interesting happened. Ron Brooks fell injured and was eventually waived as a result. The team called on Patrick Robinson to step up to the plate…a plate he’s done nothing but hit home-runs from ever since.
Through the opening four games, Robinson has 15 tackles and an interception to his name…but it’s his reliable coverage that has once again proven to be outstanding. A PFF rating of 89.0 sees Robinson ranked 4th at his position. His smooth backpedal that has long been a strength of his was on full display against the Chargers, along with a fluid transition and instinctive play.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 2, 2017
“I think he’s performed at a really high level.” Jim Schwartz said of Robinson. “He’s really taken that position over. He’s limited his focus to that position. I think that’s helped, also, and has quietly done his job. I mean, sort of offensive tackles, maybe quiet is a good word. Corners, it can be a good one. Certainly don’t want to be quiet when it comes to pass break ups or interceptions or things like that, but he’s given us good, consistent play.”
The pieces of the puzzle are all there. Robinson is elite when lining up in nickel looks and will continue to look the part throughout the season. The question is, will he play his way to one last big payday?
With Sidney Jones expected to make his debut by next season at the very latest, the Eagles have a sudden logjam at cornerback. Ronald Darby would predictably be the starter opposite Jones, leaving Rasul Douglas or Jalen Mills to backup the duo. Mills does have previous experience playing over the middle, but would he fill Jim Schwartz with enough confidence to commit to the LSU product full time at the position? If so, Robinson may be left out in the cold.
Robinson’s deal was only a one-year deal worth $775,000, and the Eagles aren’t exactly blessed with cap space. Starting Mills on the inside would no-doubt give the team one of the youngest cornerback groups with the highest upside in the league, but could Mills produce as efficiently as Robinson…and is the team ready to move into what will be year three of Pederson’s five-year window without a veteran presence?
At this point, Robinson is playing for his long-term future. With the odds stacked against him once again, it will be interesting to see whether or not Robinson can force his way into the cornerback picture for the next few years, or whether Schwartz would prefer to take a gamble on starting Mills inside to continue his progression.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
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