Patrick Robinson

What Eagles' DBs can learn from Saints disaster

USA Today Images

What Eagles' DBs can learn from Saints disaster

With just a few seconds left in Sunday's Vikings-Saints game, Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson walked away from his television and went to throw out some garbage. 

"I thought it was over," Robinson said. 


By the time Robinson walked back inside, his friends were eagerly waiting to tell him what he missed. Somehow, the Vikings pulled off a miracle 61-yard, walk-off touchdown pass. Rookie safety Marcus Williams whiffed on a tackle that would have ended the game. And the elusive Stefon Diggs scampered into the end zone. 

For the Eagles' defensive backs, seeing that mistake on Sunday served as a reminder. 

"Make that tackle and we're playing the Saints, but he misses that tackle and now the Vikings are here," safety Rodney McLeod said. "Just like that, your season can be taken away from you in the playoffs."

McLeod, Robinson and Corey Graham, three veterans of the Eagles' secondary, said they feel really bad for Williams, a rookie who had a good season until the last play that ruined it. Robinson pointed out that Williams actually had a huge interception earlier in the game that will be all but forgotten. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson stressed the importance of situational awareness all week heading into the divisional round. McLeod thinks that missed play will be a teaching moment for the Eagles this week. The Eagles always show their players a bunch of those types of plays in two-minute situations. They all know their responsibilities on them. 

"That's crazy," Graham said. "That might be like one of the worst plays I've ever seen. It's tough. I feel sorry for that guy. We all know that situation. He's supposed to be outside that guy, don't let him get out of bounds, so that's what he's thinking. So I'm pretty sure that's why he ran out of bounds, ran outside like that, trying to get outside leverage. But, I mean, I don't know, man. You've gotta do something. Either play the ball or make the tackle. It's tough, you don't obviously want to let the guy score the touchdown and lose the game like that. You've gotta find a way to make that play."

Graham broke it down a little further. He said if he was in that situation, he would have tried to play the ball. There were two choices: Either play the ball or back up some and allow the receiver to catch the ball and then tackle him in bounds.

Williams unfortunately saw what was behind Door No. 3.

"What you can't do is be too conservative where you do neither and the guy catches the ball and scores a touchdown," Graham said. "It's a tough situation for that guy. I feel sorry for him. I wish him the best."

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz declined to say specifically how his defense would handle a situation like the one the Saints found themselves in with 10 seconds left on the clock Sunday. Schwartz didn't want to lose any kind of tactical advantage; the playoffs are stressful times. 

But he did say his players are coached up for those types of situations. 

Having been a defensive assistant in Tennessee during the 1999 season, Schwartz was at Adelphia Coliseum on Jan. 8, 2000, when the Titans pulled off the Music City Miracle.  

"Playoff football, those plays are big," Schwartz said. "And they're remembered for a long time." 

Unfortunately for Williams, he's going to be remembered from Sunday for the worst possible reason. He's going to be remembered as the guy who blew the game and the Saints' chance at a Super Bowl. That's something he'll have to live with and it seems like he's determined to not let this blunder define his career. Good for him. 

For the Eagles, his mistake serves as a reminder of the importance of doing their individual jobs and of the fragility of life in the NFL playoffs. 

"I know he's a good player and he would like to have that play back," McLeod said. "The one thing is, you don't get it back, man. You have to make the most of every play, every opportunity and every second out on that field."

Schwartz focused on big picture with Eagles' D

USA Today Images

Schwartz focused on big picture with Eagles' D

Barring disaster — and we mean total disaster — the Eagles will achieve something Sunday they haven’t done in more than a quarter of a century.
The Eagles go into the final weekend of the 2017 regular season with a 169-yard lead in the battle to lead the NFL in rush defense.
Despite slipping a little in recent weeks, the Eagles have allowed just 1,138 rushing yards this year, or 75.9 yards per game. That’s 169 yards fewer than the Saints, who are allowing 87.1 rushing yards per game.
So as long as the Eagles hold the Cowboys to 168 rushing yards Sunday at the Linc, they will clinch the 2017 NFL rush defense title.
"It means a lot, especially because we've played some really good rushing teams," Malcolm Jenkins said. "And we have been able to kind of hold up all year."
The last time the Eagles led the NFL in rush defense was 1991, when they achieved the rare feat of earning No. 1 rankings against both the run and the pass.
The Eagles have gone an NFL-best 26 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, although Marshawn Lynch came close Monday night.
They've held 17 straight opponents to 140 or fewer rushing yards, their longest streak since 1992.
And they haven't allowed a rushing touchdown at home in more than a year.
"Stopping the run is obviously something that's important to you going forward, but it's part of the game," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said.
"It's like rushing the passer. It's like playing pass defense. It's tackling. It's just part of what we do. I do think that playoff time, the ability to stop the run can be a big thing, in particular, because we're going to be playing games here at the Linc, and maybe it's nasty weather. Not every game in January is ideal conditions, and sometimes it's tough to throw the ball.
"We've all been around games like that, and teams have to lean more on the run game. So I think it can be important going forward."
The Eagles finish the regular season Sunday with a meaningless game against the Cowboys, and presumably Ezekiel Elliott.
If they hold the Cowboys without a touchdown, they'll become only the fifth team in NFL history to go an entire season without allowing a rushing touchdown at home.
“It would mean a lot," Patrick Robinson said of the rushing title. "It would definitely mean a lot. We’ve got to try to beat these guys, stop Zeke from getting a 100-yard rushing day. We’re just trying to do our job and finish out the season the right way.”
The Eagles are going to need that run defense to win in the playoffs, especially considering some of the backs they might face — the Rams' Todd Gurley, the Saints' duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the Falcons' Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the Vikings' Latavius Murray.
"It has been the staple of our defense, especially as we move into the playoffs," Jenkins said. "Teams are going to bring their running games, and it's going to be a huge thing for us to be able to stop the run."
The key for the Eagles this year has been stuffing the run on first down. They're allowing just 3.2 yards per carry on first down, second-best in the league (the Colts are at 3.0). That puts teams in passing downs early and that plays into the Eagles' pass rush. 
The Eagles are allowing 3.73 yards per carry, fifth-best in the league and their best since 2005, when they finished at 3.72. They lead the league in fewest rushing first downs allowed with 56. They'll finish with their fewest since 1991, when they allowed 53.
Schwartz shrugged off the No. 1 ranking and explained why in typical Jim Schwartz fashion:
"Hey, stopping the run is great, but if you're the No. 1 run defense and you're giving up 600 yards a game passing, it’s hard to put that on a badge or something," he said. "You know what I mean?
"Our job is to allow less points than we score. Anything else after that, it's like figure skating. It's the artistic interpretation or something. It's those things that need to be judged. It always cracks me up. I watch Olympic sports and you see those ski jumpers, and you think, ‘Man, that's awesome. They fly through the air and who can go the farthest is the winner.’
"But it's not just who can go the farthest. There's somebody who judges whether their skis were straight or something like that. Man, just go the farthest. And that's what we're trying to do."

Eagles' top CB was nearly cut in camp

USA Today Images

Eagles' top CB was nearly cut in camp

On a team with countless improbable stories, Patrick Robinson might be the most improbable.

With his fourth team in four years. Turned 30 earlier this season. Had a dreadful training camp. Was so bad in the summer he was moved to a new position.

And here he is, enjoying perhaps his best season as a pro on one of the NFL's best defenses.

“It’s very rewarding," Robinson said Wednesday. "Around my age, you start to get those, ‘Oh, he’s getting older, he’s slowing down.’ People just assume that you’re going to slow down.

"So right now I’m just trying to prove I’m still good. I’m still running as fast as I’ve ever been. Still as quick as anybody in the league. I’m definitely not slowing down."

Robinson on Monday night tied his career high of four interceptions, set with the Saints back in 2011. He's the first Eagles' cornerback with four INTs in a season since Brandon Boykin had seven in 2013 and only the second Eagles' cornerback in his 30s with four INTs in a season since 1960. Sheldon Brown had five in 2009.

On a team loaded with promising young corners — Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones are all 23 or younger — Robinson has given the Eagles a steady presence, secure tackling, timely playmaking and veteran leadership.

“I think it’s one of my best seasons," said Robinson, now in his ninth NFL season. "Starting off the way I did, it definitely makes me feel great about how far I’ve come."

Robinson was so bad this preseason and in training camp, it wouldn't have been a shock if the Eagles released him. If Jones were healthy, they probably would have.

"I started off slow but didn’t really worry about what people were saying and just kept working," he said. "Never got down. 

"At camp, as far as people getting on me, I didn’t know, I don’t pay attention to the media. I just knew what I had to do to be successful in this defense and that’s keep grinding, keep working on what I have to work on, and that’s what I did."

Robinson's turnaround began when defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz moved him from the outside, where he was struggling so badly, to the slot after the Eagles acquired Darby from the Bills two weeks into training camp.

Suddenly, Robinson looked comfortable and began making plays. And he hasn't stopped since.

"Patrick is a different kind of player, and it gives us the ability to when we have maybe a smaller, quicker guy, we can use Patrick in (the slot)," Schwartz said. "When we have a bigger, more physical guy, we can use Malcolm. He's a good complement to the other guys. He's played some good quality snaps for us outside this year, too.

"Starting in that first game when Darby went down, he went in and played some good-quality outside snaps for us. But he's really sort of taken that nickel spot and given us good consistent play there."

Although he's not technically a full-time starter — he's started eight of 15 games — Robinson has played 45 snaps per game, fifth-most on the defense and fourth-most among all the defensive backs.

He said he embraced the move from outside corner to the slot and the challenges it presented.

“It didn’t really matter to me," he said. "I just wanted to win. That’s all that mattered."

And the Eagles have won 13 of 15 games, earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket with a meaningless game against the Cowboys at the Linc remaining.

Playing in the slot requires a specific skill set, and Robinson has turned out to be a terrific fit.

"You definitely have to have great eyes," he said. "You have to be on point every play. Whether it’s a play-action pass or you’ve got to run out to the flat or cover the guy or if it’s a run and you have two guards coming your way and making sure you fit where you’re supposed to fit.

"And it’s a lot more physical."

At 30 years old, Robinson knows he has to take care of himself more than ever to continue playing at a high level deep into the season at such a physical position.

“Really it's just about being consistent with your body," he said. "Sometimes guys start off pretty good with their body, cold tub every day, but as the year goes along they start slacking off and get a little lazy.

"For me, I stay in the weight room, I stay in the training room, and I try to stay consistent with that."

This is the first winning team Robinson has played on since that 2011 season with the Saints, who went 13-3 and lost to the 49ers in the conference semifinals.

That makes all of this even more special.

"Absolutely," he said. "That’s the most important part of it for me. I just want to win. Everything’s a lot better when you win. I think I made the best choice. Everything’s going pretty good and I want to keep it like that."

Robinson is playing on a one-year, $775,000 deal, which is minimum wage for a player with his experience.

With Jones, Darby, Douglas and Mills all under contract for 2018, Robinson's future in Philly is uncertain.

But with his first playoff game in six years just over two weeks away, that's the last thing on his mind.

“I’m just doing my job right now," he said. "I’m not worried about that right now. When the time comes, I’ll do what I’ve got to do. It’s a business at the end of the day, and we’ll handle business at the end of the season."