Patrick Robinson

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. 

10 most surprising Eagles from NFC East-leading 5-1 start

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USA Today Images

10 most surprising Eagles from NFC East-leading 5-1 start

We all pretty much knew Malcolm Jenkins would have another big year. We all pretty much knew Carson Wentz would improve dramatically, Zach Ertz would have a career season and Brandon Graham would have success getting after the quarterback.
 
Then there are the surprises. On this team, there've been a ton of them.
 
The Eagles, at 5-1, are already just two wins short of last year's total and have more wins than the rest of the NFC East combined.
 
Let's take a look at the 10 biggest surprises so far this year on this first-place Eagles team. (And don't look for Nelson Agholor on this list. His performance may be surprising to some people but not to me!)
 
1. Patrick Robinson
Honestly, Robinson's career looked like it was over this summer. He was with his fourth team in four years, and he was so bad early in training camp and the Eagles had so many promising young corners you had to wonder if there was even a roster spot for Robinson. But not only did he make the team and earn a starting spot when Ronald Darby got hurt, he's played at such a consistently high level you can make a case he's been the Eagles' Defensive MVP so far. He's got a team-high nine knockdowns, two interceptions and he's just been consistently solid in coverage.
 
2. LeGarrette Blount
Maybe it's not a huge surprise Blount has been so productive because he did score 18 touchdowns for the Patriots last year. But the surprise is his 5.6 yards-per-carry average — second-best in the league and tops in the NFC among regular backs (at least eight carries per game). Blount averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last year and hasn't been over 4.5 since 2013. And he's 30 now. That 5.6 figure is fourth-highest in NFL history by a running back in his 30s after six games. With Darren Sproles out, Donnel Pumphrey struggling throughout camp and now on the shelf and Wendell Smallwood out the last couple games as well, the Eagles have really needed Blount, and he's responded in a huge way. He's giving the Eagles way more than anybody expected.
 
3. Rasul Douglas
Injuries forced the Eagles to use Douglas in Week 2 after he was inactive on opening day, and he's been starting ever since. Douglas has given up some plays — what rookie cornerback hasn't? — but despite less than world-class speed he's shown an ability to cover, tackle and support the run. Douglas needs to be more consistent, but he's got two interceptions in five games — the first Eagles corner with two INTs in his first five career games since Eric Allen — and he's only going to get better.
 
4. Jake Elliott
What a story. The Bengals draft Elliott in the fifth round, risk losing him by placing him on the practice squad, then Caleb Sturgis gets hurt, the Eagles sign Elliott, and he proceeds to make three kicks of 50 yards or more in his first five games — including a game-winning 61-yarder, the third-longest walk-off field goal in NFL history. Despite not playing on opening day, Elliott is fourth in the NFL in scoring, with 49 points. He's 12 for 14 overall, including 10 straight makes. He's already one of the most accomplished long-range kickers in Eagles history. And he's played five games. 
 
5. Mychal Kendricks
Kendricks' once-promising career seemed to fizzle out the last couple years. Check out his playing time his first five NFL seasons: 88.5 percent in 2012 (under Juan Castillo and Todd Bowles), then 82.6 percent, 65.5 percent and 51.6 percent in 2013 through 2015 (under Bill Davis) and down to 26.7 percent last year under Jim Schwartz. A downward spiral. But Kendricks forced the Eagles to play him with a fantastic preseason, and he's backed that up with some really solid play so far this year. Kendricks had his best game in years Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, with 15 total tackles, a tackle for loss and two special teams tackles. He played 55 snaps — his most in two years — and is now at 52 percent for the season. It's been a long time since we've seen Kendricks play at this level, and it's safe to say few people saw it coming.
 
6. Tim Jernigan
Hard to believe after watching these first six games that the Ravens didn't want Jernigan back. From what he's shown so far, he's a big-time player. Why would the Ravens give up on a 24-year-old defensive lineman with this much potential? Apparently, they felt he wasn't consistent enough. But if he's able to continue delivering the type of play that he has so far, it was a steal for the Eagles. Jernigan already has six tackles for loss, 1½ sacks and four hurries, not to mention stout play against the run all year. He's been way better than advertised.
 
7. Chris Long
Any notion the Eagles just brought Long in for leadership and emergency depth was quickly dispelled when we started to see him play. Long has a lot left. He's averaging 28 snaps, is tied for second on the team with 2.0 sacks and played a season-high 41 snaps in a big way Thursday night down in Charlotte. Long, now 32 years old, can still play.
 
8. Mack Hollins
When training camp began, Hollis was probably behind Jordan Matthews, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Paul Turner, Shelton Gibson and maybe even Bryce Treggs. So he was eighth-team. Now the rookie fifth-round pick is working his way up the Eagles' wide receiving hierarchy. He hasn't played a lot — about 10 snaps per game — but he's got five catches on five targets for five first downs, including a big 20-yarder Thursday night against the Panthers. Keep an eye on Hollins. He's going to be a good one.
 
9. Jason Kelce
Kelce's performance hasn't been a surprise to everybody, but there was certainly a large contingent of people who felt the veteran center should be released this offseason or preseason after his level of play dropped last year. But Kelce has been terrific in the middle of the NFL's No. 4-ranked offense and No. 5-ranked running game. So far a resurgent year for the two-time Pro Bowler.
 
10. Corey Clement
Down three running backs — Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood — the Eagles have asked a lot of Clement, and the undrafted rookie has made some nice contributions, including a 15-yard touchdown run against the Giants, a 22-yard catch and run against the Cards and a 35-yard kickoff return against the Giants. It's rare to get much of anything from rookie tailbacks, but Clement has done a nice job taking advantage of his opportunities.

Patrick Robinson suddenly major key to success of Eagles' D

Patrick Robinson suddenly major key to success of Eagles' D

Back in August, it looked like Patrick Robinson might have trouble cracking the Eagles' 53-man roster. What a difference a month makes, because recently, the journeyman cornerback has been downright indispensable.

Robinson is coming off arguably his best performance of the season against the Cardinals on Sunday, finishing with five tackles, three pass breakups and a blocked field goal. The eighth-year veteran probably should've come up with an interception or two as well, except the opposing wide receivers were playing some good defense themselves.

Regardless, Robinson has been on fire. He's up to 19 tackles, two tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and one interception on the season — not to mention becoming one of the Eagles' unsung heroes through five weeks.

“Patrick has really come on," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday. "When we picked him up in the offseason and we brought him in, one, it just added depth to our roster at the position. We had some young guys at the time, and this was before the draft, too.”

Signed to a one-year contract in late March, several weeks after the opening of free agency, Robinson struggled mightily during OTAs and training camp. After one especially rough practice over the summer, he even summarized his own performance as "terrible."

Robinson fared better in the preseason and would wind up beating out the likes of upside talents such as C.J. Smith and Aaron Grymes. It was still difficult to envision a 30-year-old defensive back coming off a rough, injury-riddled season with the Colts suddenly blossoming into a shutdown defender.

"His versatility right now being able to play the nickel spot and also bounce out and play corner, which he did in the second half of the game last week, I think it's just a lot of value on defense," Pederson said.

“He's a smart guy, a veteran player who knows how to play and understands the game and he seems to be in the right spot right now. He feels comfortable in his role, and he's been a big, big asset to the defense.”

Big, big asset might be an understatement. The Eagles' corners entered the season with plenty of question marks, Robinson being high on that list. To make matters worse, the secondary has been hit hard by injuries so far, most notably to starting cornerback Ronald Darby, but in the safety corps as well.

So it's been incredibly fortunate for the Eagles that Robinson, for the bargain-basement price of $775,000, according to OverTheCap, has overcome his earlier issues and provided the back end of the defense some much-needed stability.

“I think any player, whether it's a rookie or a veteran that goes to a new football team, there's a curve," Pederson said. "There's a catch-up curve to understanding the scheme and the terminology, and I think the more reps that a player gets, and particularly in his case, the better you become.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson currently ranks second out of 109 NFL cornerbacks in overall cumulative performance in 2017. Say what you want about PFF's metrics, but that's incredible given the fact that, by Pederson's own admission, Robinson was added to the roster primarily for depth.