What marks Patrick Robinson out as a valuable free agent?
Coaching and scheme fit really do matter. Patrick Robinson enjoyed a quiet breakout season after living as a career journeyman over the first seven years of his career. Drafted in the first round by New Orleans in 2010, the cornerback never panned out as a long-term starter. A year ago, Indianapolis miscast Robinson as an outside corner in their cover 3 and man-to-man heavy defense. He ultimately proved to be just another liability on a defense full of liabilities. Under a new regime, the Colts cut Robinson in March. Howie Roseman unearthed the corner from the free agent scrap pile and turned him into a full-time slot cornerback.
Robinson only came on the field as a part-time player as the slot corner in nickel. He primarily carried slot receivers in man and was asked to take the flat in all zone coverages. Occasionally, Philadelphia used him on slot blitzes off the edge. Under Jim Schwartz, Robinson developed into a more aggressive, physical player than earlier in his career.
Typical of a nickel player, Robinson possesses below average size at 5’11″, 190 pounds with a narrow frame. He has solid athletic ability through his combination of quickness, acceleration, and change of direction.
Patrick Robinson is a heady player that communicates actively with his teammates before the snap and understands how to play to his help well. He shows controlled physicality at the LOS, showing the patience to stay square with quiet feet before shooting a physical jab into the chest of the receiver to reroute them towards the coverage. From there, he trails off the hip to mirror quicker receivers with excellent ability to read body language and anticipate route breaks.
From off, he shows a polished pedal with ideal over-the-thigh pad level and smooth cadence to allow him to plant and drive on the ball. He’s a disciplined zone player that doesn’t take the bait, getting to his spot quickly with his eyes on a swivel towards the quarterback with excellent ability to recognize route combinations. When the ball is in the air, he can get his head around and close on the receiver with good timing to disrupt the catch. He certainly has good enough hands, recording four interceptions in 2017.
Slot corners need to be strong run defenders as they typically replace the SAM linebacker in nickel. Robinson more than checks that box. He’s able to snuff out where the play is going quickly and flies downhill with no hesitation to blow up screen plays. He understands how to play to his help and can disengage from most receivers when he shoots his hands first. As a tackler, Robinson keys to the front hip and shows a solid ability to wrap up and execute run-through tackles. He’s a fiery competitor that goes all-out every snap, even when his team is out ahead or down-and-out.
Patrick Robinson lacks precision with his hand placement at the LOS and can give up some separation against well-timed hand swipes. His weakness in coverage was exposed in Indianapolis when he was asked to man up on outside receivers. In off, he sits flat-footed a beat too long and is a bit stiff to flip his hips to give up some deeper in-breaking routes. He can get caught flipping his hips too early when asked to play from a bail and struggles with body control at the top of routes.
Despite his effort, Robinson’s small frame limits his ability to consistently engage physically in pure man-on-man situations. When he’s late with his hands, he can get swallowed up by stronger receivers in run support.
Robinson’s late-career renaissance in 2017 showed that he can thrive as a true slot corner. Viable in coverage with the intensity and smarts to excel as a run-defender, Matt Patricia can feel more than good about Robinson as a starter. At 30 years old, he could decline soon. He’d be a great buy on a short-term, mid-level contract if he reaches free agency.
Grade: 6.00 (Starter you can win with)
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