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.

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"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."

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