One of the more underlying storylines coming out of the Eagles unconvincing win over New York was the loss of Patrick Robinson. The veteran cornerback exited the game early due to what was later confirmed as a concussion. This of course means that he is in the league’s concussion protocol and could be set to miss Monday’s clash against the Raiders. If this is the case, the Birds will need a contingency plan in place.
Oakland’s passing attack very much lives through Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, but it’s Jared Cook who leads the way in receiving with 638 yards to his name. What’s perhaps more problematic, is that the Raiders have a committee effort at the slot wideout position.
Former Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be far more dangerous than a perennial special teamer this year, while recently extended Seth Roberts is averaging 11 yards per reception. If you combine the duos stats, essentially marginalizing them into the same player, they’ve accounted for 64 targets this year. That’s more than any other receiver on the team has been targeted. Between them, the pair has amassed 682 yards and a touchdown this season. If the Eagles are without one of their top defensive performers, it’s going to be an issue.
Until very recently, Robinson has been one of the team’s most pleasant surprises. Stopping anyone in his path, Robinson has 3 interceptions and a staggering 15 passes defensed along with 43 tackles. Robinson has truly shown the same shades of greatness he displayed in 2015 working out of the nickel for the Chargers. Losing one of PFF’s top-graded cornerbacks this season coming into a matchup that focuses most of its traffic over the middle could leave the Eagles short-handed.
The question then becomes, who fills in? Jaylen Watkins certainly has the experience and versatility to fill such a void. This season has been one of growth for the Florida product, whose tackling has become a newly found strength. To go with his already impressive coverage skills, the Eagles have relied on Watkins several times when starved for depth this year, with the versatile DB playing in 12% of defensive snaps.
One option they could explore, is moving Jalen Mills inside and pushing Rasul Douglas back into the fray on the outside. This is a scenario we could likely see in next season and beyond, only Douglas would likely be replaced by Sidney Jones. The best way for the Eagles to get their top cornerbacks on the field at the same time is to bump Mills into the nickel due to his previous experience there, leaving Douglas and Darby to man the watchtowers. It would be an interesting experiment and one the Eagles may be willing to commit to, knowing that they have a first-round bye and some slight margin for error. The only issue is that Mills has never really excelled in press coverage in comparison to his off-coverage prowess and against speedy receivers like Patterson, this may bring a new set of challenges.
Finally, there’s the Malcolm Jenkins option. The veteran safety may be one of the Eagles most valuable pieces on defense and can line up just about anywhere. It was Jenkins who filled in for Ron Brooks one year ago when he went down with injury and the Pro Bowler prides himself on matchups against tight ends and slot wideouts. This would be the more reliable option, but it would force Jaylen Watkins or Corey Graham into a starting role alongside Rodney McLeod.
Whatever the Eagles decide, they need a contingency plan in place. Patrick Robinson may come out of protocol tomorrow or he may not come out for a week. The Eagles have a tough matchup ahead of them that screams mismatches and they simply have to be ready.
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Mandatory Photo Credit: Ryan Kang via AP