Trusting the routine has Patrick Robinson balling out for Eagles

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Trusting the routine has Patrick Robinson balling out for Eagles

There's a reason Patrick Robinson was able to get over his training camp struggles this summer. 

It's the same reason he isn't walking around the NovaCare Complex with his chest puffed out six games into the season.  

"It's never as bad as you think it is and it's never as good as you think it is," the veteran cornerback said Tuesday. "Me, I try to stay even keel, focus on my everyday routine."

Every day when Robinson enters the NovaCare Complex, he sticks to that routine. He trains the same, he studies the same, he practices the same. He tries to stay consistent. 

Consistent, consistent, consistent. 

Robinson mentioned that word five times in about a minute span following Tuesday's light practice. It's sort of become the theme of the 30-year-old's season. It's something he learned with age and experience, partially on his own and partially from a plethora of veteran teammates with whom he's shared a locker room. 

He admitted it can be difficult to trust the routine when the results don't follow. That's what happened to him this summer. But he trusted things would turn around.  

"Eventually, you'll get the results you want," he said.  

Turns out, he was right. 

Through six games, Robinson hasn't just been passable. He's been one of the biggest surprises on the 5-1 Eagles and he has played a big role in their success. While ProFootballFocus' grades should be taken with a grain — or a shaker — of salt, Robinson is its second-highest graded cornerback in the NFL. 

More importantly, he's been thrown at 36 times but has given up just 21 catches for 291 yards. He has two interceptions and six passes defensed. 

Robinson is absolutely balling out right now. 

Still, he's more interested in "staying even keel" and not letting the success get to his head. 

"The team is doing pretty good but we still have a lot we need to work and improve on," he said. "And it's still early. Really early. I'm not too high on myself or the team. We still have a lot of work and a long way to go."

On a one-year deal, Robinson took this season as a challenge to prove he still belongs in the NFL. He's a former first-round pick who has never lived up to that potential and the Eagles are his third team in three years. 

Robinson is on a prove-it deal. So far, that's going pretty well. 

"I'm doing all right," he admitted. "I could still do a lot better. In my opinion, I could be better."

It's crazy to think Robinson is the same player who looked utterly lost this summer. He wasn't just bad. It was near-unanimous among reporters watching him that he was the most disappointing defensive player on the field.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz explained those struggles Tuesday by saying Robinson was simply working through playing new techniques the Eagles were asking him to play — some of them he had never played before.

It's hard to blame all of his bad moments on new techniques. He simply wasn't performing well and even admitted it at the time. But Schwartz said the team never got down on him. 

"It took a lot of mental toughness for him," Schwartz said. "He never lost his confidence. We never lost our confidence in him."

It seemed like the real change in Robinson's play was actually the same event that had many wondering if he'd even make the team. The Eagles traded for Ronald Darby on Aug. 11, but instead of making Robinson the odd man out and going with Ron Brooks in the slot, Schwartz made Robinson the team's new nickel cornerback. 

While Robinson has played both inside and out since Darby's injury in Week 1, he seems to have really found a comfy spot in the slot. Fellow corner Jalen Mills thinks Robinson's experience lends itself to be productive in that role; there isn't much he hasn't seen. 

It's unclear what will happen to Robinson when Darby and maybe even Sidney Jones rejoin the lineup, but for now, the veteran is finally playing the way he's always wanted to. 

When Robinson signed in April, he was asked what he needed to do this season to finally reach his potential. His answer shouldn't come as much of a surprise. 

"As a coach, you want a player that's going to be the same player week in and week out," he said on April 1. "Not a great player, then mediocre, then great. You want someone who's going to be the same player week in and week out."

If nothing else, he's consistent. 

Eagles taking a RB at No. 32? History suggests it's unlikely

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Eagles taking a RB at No. 32? History suggests it's unlikely

The last running back the Eagles drafted in the first round was Keith Byars. That was 32 years ago.

The last running back they took anywhere in the first three rounds was LeSean McCoy. Believe it not, that was nine years ago.

It’s been true for decades, and it’s still true today. The Eagles simply do not believe in using premium draft picks on running backs.

And it’s hard to blame them.

The Eagles have had 61 picks in the first three rounds over the last 20 years and used just four of them on running backs – McCoy in the second round in 2009 and Brian Westbrook (2002), Ryan Moats (2005) and Tony Hunt (2007) in the third round.

Shady, who is well on his way to a Hall of Fame career, is actually the only running back the Eagles have taken in the first two rounds since Charlie Garner back in 1994.

“I think running backs the last few drafts you’ve been able to see guys contribute from every part of the draft,” vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said. “You think about third-round picks, guys like Dave Johnson, Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara. Those guys weren’t first- or second-round picks.”

A lot of mock drafts and experts had the Eagles taking a running back in the first round of last year’s running back-rich draft.

But they took a lineman, Derek Barnett, for the 19th time in their last 25 first-round picks.

And they managed to cobble together a running back corps that wound up third in the NFL in rushing yards despite not a single back taken in the first four rounds of the draft in a key role.

“Coming out of the draft everyone thought last year we needed to get a [running back] high,” Douglas said.

“And we ended up addressing it acquiring one player in the draft (fourth-rounder Donnel Pumphrey, who didn’t play), another player after the draft (Corey Clement) and then two more veterans after the draft (LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi). So there’s a lot of different ways you can get those guys.”

Blount and Clement came into the NFL as undrafted rookies. Ajayi was a fifth-round pick. Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood were both late-round picks.

Add it all up and you have a Super Bowl backfield without a running back taken in the first 148 picks of a draft.

“We thought maybe there would be an opportunity to get one of those running backs [last year], maybe a different guy than Pump,” executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said.

“But we went and as a staff attacked it, getting LeGarrette, who had a great year and was really a huge part of our team, and then making a trade and getting Jay. 

“We’re going to attack it in the draft, we’re going to attack it in June, we’re going to attack it in August, and we’re going to attack it at the trade deadline. … This is not the end of talent-acquisition season. It’s really just starting.”

Teams often will bypass even the most talented running backs in the first round simply because their shelf life is so limited.

For every Adrian Peterson, there are 10 Larry Johnsons, C.J. Spillers or Beanie Wells.

The last running back the Eagles took in the first round to rush for 750 yards in a season was Steve Van Buren.

They’ve drafted 10 since taking him in 1944.

But Douglas said the Eagles aren’t philosophically opposed to taking a running back in the first round, although it’s almost impossible to imagine them actually taking one.

“Great running backs are difference makers,” Douglas said. “We’ve seen that in today’s NFL. Special guys coming out of the backfield and can hurt you in the pass game. If it’s the right player, we’re not opposed to taking him.”

Nick Foles breaks down his ‘crazy situation’ with Eagles

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Nick Foles breaks down his ‘crazy situation’ with Eagles

At some point this summer, Carson Wentz will be cleared to play football.

And Nick Foles will pick up a clipboard and go back to the bench. The Super Bowl MVP will once again be a backup.

“It is a crazy situation,” Nick Foles said this week. “I don’t know how many times it’s happened.”

It’s never happened. No quarterback has ever been a Super Bowl MVP and began the next season as a backup.

But this is a unique set of circumstances. Wentz remains the unquestioned Eagles quarterback of the future. And Foles, as long as he’s here, is his backup.

“It’s not easy, because part of you wants to be able to lead a team and stay in the huddle,” Foles said Tuesday.

“But I’ve been very blessed to have experienced so much in my career so whenever those thoughts sort of hit you, you have to home back in and take what I learned early in my career, when I went to St. Louis, when I went to Kansas City, when I came here, that I really just need to worry about today, because tomorrow’s not guaranteed. This moment is. And I’m going to enjoy it and do it to the best of my ability.

“And it really makes everything a lot easier. Because whatever is going to happen is going to happen. A lot of it I have no control of it. If I’m traded, it’s really not my decision, so why would I even worry about it?”

Wentz was having a record-setting season when he tore up his knee Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Foles responded with a record-setting postseason.

But Wentz is 25 and Foles is 29. When Wentz is healthy, he will start.

“My (role) right now is to help this team in practice while Carson’s getting healthy, which I’m excited for,” he said. “I want him to get back out there and get healthy and get back to (being) Carson Wentz.

“I want him to (pick up) off where he left off. That excites me from a friend’s perspective and a teammate’s perspective.

“My mindset won’t change. There’s definitely times where I’m tempted to look at the future, like any of us are. I’d be lying if that wasn’t the case. But you have to reel back in and stay in the present because that doesn’t do you any benefit.”

Foles said he’s had people tell him he should have demanded the Eagles trade him so he can start now.

And after his record-setting postseason, it would be understandable if he did.

“I’ve seen both sides of it,” he said. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Do I want an opportunity to run a team again? Absolutely. But am I trying to run away and do it right now? Well, I’m grateful to be here.

“There’s so much here that I really enjoy and I love it here. So I’m not banging on the table. I’m really grateful to be in this moment.”

Some people made a big deal about Foles telling an Austin television station that he would like to be a starter again, but anybody who knows Foles already knew that.

“All I’m telling y’all is what y’all already knew and everyone knew,” he said. “I can’t believe that I had to actually come out and say that I want to be a starter again. Because I’ve always believed your actions speak louder than words. I shouldn’t have to come out and say that I want to be a starter again.

“The key is to go out on the field and lead your team and show people, ‘This guy is a good guy in the locker room, he can lead a team, he did it on the field, and he’s shown it.’

“Right now, I’m a part of this team, I’m a piece of the puzzle, I’m going to help this team win in any way possible, and whatever my role is, do it to the best of my ability and do it with a lot of joy. Because I’ve seen the other side of it, and I have a lot of joy going to work here.”