Robinson is Eagles’ Unlikely Star
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — On a defense that features Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jordan Hicks and Malcolm Jenkins, the best Jim Schwartz student to date during the Eagles' 5-1 start has been cornerback Patrick Robinson.
That's a far cry from this summer when Robinson ducked in the back door of the NovaCare Complex and addressed a group of reporters after a poor practice.
The former first-round pick was particularly upset at getting beaten deep by camp star Marcus Johnson on two different occasions.
“It was a terrible day for me," Robinson surmised. "It was terrible."
When asked by 973espn.com why he was being so hard on himself Robinson pointed to the explosive plays by Johnson, the kind of quick strikes that can cripple any defense.
"I gave up two deep balls,” Robinson explained. “That’s a huge no-no. When you give up that deep ball, that’s a huge blow for our team. You don’t give up a deep ball. That’s a problem for a defense.”
Schwartz downplayed those early struggles this week, however.
"Yeah, he was working through some new techniques that we were asking him to play," the defensive coordinator claimed. "He's a young veteran player. Particularly in some of the ball location stuff that he had never done before. And not everything in training camp is a -- I don't know the best way to put it. Not everything is viewed through the same lens. Like if a guy gets beat in training camp, it's not like a black mark on his resume that he can never get over. It's a guy working through a technique or working through a coaching point and how he's developing. And we never really got down on him, and he's done a good job of working through a lot of that stuff."
That's a bit of revisionist history, however, as evidenced by the trades for two different cornerbacks in the preseason -- Ronald Darby and Dexter McDougle -- to fortify what looked like the team's weakest position.
When Darby arrived Robinson was pushed into the slot and seemed to fit like a glove but when the former dislocated his ankle in the season opener, Schwartz eventually threw more on Robinson's plate.
At first, the Eagles tried to get by with Jaylen Watkins and then rookie Rasul Douglas on the outside until eventually settling on Robinson being outside in the base defense and then moving to the slot in the nickel with the rookie them coming in. That keeps Robinson, who has been by far the team's best corner, on the field more.
Through six games, ProFootballFocus.com has graded Robinson as the second-best cornerback in all of football and notes he's been thrown at 36 times, allowing only 21 receptions for 291 yards.
"Patrick has really been a real bright spot in our secondary," coach Doug Pederson said. "He's been able to play outside and inside, his versatility there. Really moving him to inside earlier in the year just took a lot of pressure off Malcolm on the back end."
Now that things are clicking for Robinson, however, there hasn't been a change in his demeanor.
"It's never as bad as you think it is and it's never as good as you think it is," Robinson said at his locker earlier this week. "I try to stay even keel, focus on my everyday routine."
That routine includes being one of the best-conditioned players on the Eagles and a strict attention to detail with consistency as the goal, something that has been hard to come by for the Florida State product due to injuries over the years.
Currently outplaying a one-year, prove-it deal all Robinson would allow himself at this point was to admit the obvious but even then he pivoted back to his mindset of always improving.
"I'm doing alright," he smiled. "I could still do a lot better in my opinion."
The team remains the main concern and at 5-1 the exit polls are good but there is still plenty of work ahead.
"The team is doing pretty good right now but we still have a lot we need to work and improve on," Robinson said. "And it's still early. Really early."
FRIDAY NOVACARE NOTES
-Darby was back at practice in a limited fashion for the second straight day Friday as he grows closer to returning from his ankle issue. The Eagles are unlikely to push him for Monday night, however, as coach Doug Pederson admitted the "stars have to align" for the CB1 to play against the Redskins.
-Running back Wendell Smallwood was a full participant for the second straight day, a clear indication he will be returning from the knee swelling that caused him to miss the past two contests.
-Added to the injury report Friday was linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who was limited with a hamstring injury. The only other limited player was fellow LB Jordan Hicks (ankle). Defensive tackles Tim Jernigan (ankle) and Beau Allen (foot), who were limited on Thursday were able to practice in full.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen