How will the Eagles fill the void left by Patrick Robinson?

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The Eagles have lost their first bidding war of the offseason and it’s a painful defeat to take. Veteran cornerback, Patrick Robinson, who became a star in the City of Brotherly Love has decided to return to the team that drafted him, the New Orleans Saints on a long-term deal.

There’s no questioning the reason as to why Robinson opted to go down this route. The first round pick from 2010 has enjoyed a long career in the NFL and one last long-term extension guarantees him not only a payday that the Eagles couldn’t afford, but a sense of security the Eagles couldn’t provide with the team aiming to get younger.

Patrick Robinson wasn’t just a defensive standout for the Eagles, he was one of the team’s biggest playmakers, period. With 47 tackles and  tied-career-highs in passes defensed and interceptions, Robinson flourished after a tricky training camp and a surprise trade saw him pushed into the Nickel where he previously enjoyed his best season of his career. Robinson was a nightmare for opposing tight ends and slot receivers all year long thanks to a stroke of luck that sent him back to his real position of strength. The FSU star was excellent throughout, rarely missing a beat in coverage and forcing offenses to throw outside…meaning the pass-rush can do their jobs.

The loss does pose an interesting new question for Howie Roseman and company however. ‘What happens next?’ Who fills Robinson’s role? That’s a question that doesn’t currently have an answer. Jalen Mills did take notable reps in the slot in 2016 and if the Eagles insist on having Sidney Jones and Ronald Darby starting outside, this may well be the most effective way to get all three starting caliber corners on the field at the same time. But what if the Eagles want to trade Darby? There have been plenty of rumors swirling around given that the young corner only has one year left on his deal and it is a possibility that Darby ends up playing elsewhere.

In that case, we could expect the same formation but with either Rasul Douglas replacing Darby after showing just how capable he was during his rookie year as a ballhawking corner, or even recently acquired Daryl Worley, who spent a lot of time working out of the nickel during his days with Carolina.

There is always the potential to move Malcolm Jenkins down back into a nickel role. After all, he did spent most of the 2016 campaign working out of the slot following the season-ending injury sustained by Ron Brooks. The leadership and production brought to the table by Jenkins gives the Eagles enough confidence and firepower to push him down back into heart of the battlefield.

However, that then posts another problem. Who will Rodney McLeod’s running-mate be? Sure, Jalen Mills started the ‘Honey Badger’ hype and now that the former Cardinals DB has been released, there’s every chance that the Eagles Make a run for the former LSU teammate of Jalen Mills. However, signing Mathieu would come at a price that may not be all that affordable.

Mathieu would be a perfect fit for the Eagles. A hard-hitting safety and former Pro Bowler, Mathieu has been nothing short of elite since arriving in the NFL. But is he realistically going to sign? Only time will tell.

Then, there’s the underdog option. Former CFL standout, Aaron Grymes, who has spent two full offseason’s with the team and shined on both occasions, actually saw plenty of nickel action during Training Camp this year and if available, could be a great low-cost fit to come in and compete once again to try and carve a starting role.

Finally, the draft. The Eagles notably met with LSU’s Donte Jackson recently and after speaking with two NFL safety prospects, both told me that the Birds had been in contact and expressed a desire to add some strong-safety talent to their roster. ‘We need two good safeties back there’. The Eagles told one of the prospects I spoke to. With that in mind, would that not imply shifting a safety down into the nickel (Cough, Jaylen Watkins if tendered or Malcolm Jenkins) and then instead re-enforcing the safety position through the draft instead?

The Eagles have plenty of options ahead of them and plenty of knock-on questions that are bound to surface. But the bottom line is this. Patrick Robinson was arguably the team’s brightest star in the team’s Super Bowl winning campaign and replacing a player of his caliber inside won’t be easy.

 

Mandatory Credit: Kirt Dozier-USA TODAY Sports

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