A name that has gone under the radar is former Saints CB Patrick Robinson, who signed during free agency for 1 year, $2 million contract. The contract suggests he is a depth signing that is fighting for a spot, but his play suggests that he can be the starting nickel corner on the team. Through 2 OTAs, that's exactly where Robinson has been. Football Outsiders did a study on who was the best CB in a supporting role, which was based on 45 CBs who didn't qualify as number 1 CBs but had 8 starts of 50 charted passes. Robinson ranked 10th in adjusted yards per pass and 11th in adjusted success rate. For comparison, Shareece Wright would've ranked 33% in adjusted success rate. I wanted to take a look back at Robinson to see exactly what he's bringing to the table for the Chargers. So I watched 8 games and here are my takeaways.
Stacking up against the stars
In the 8 games, Robinson had a chance to match up with 3 of the better receivers in the league, in Julio Jones, Randall Cobb, and Antonio Brown. Here's how he fared. One thing to keep in mind is these are not targets. A blown coverage doesn't get tallied.
|Player||Press||Off Cvg||Slot||Slant||5 Yard In||Drag||Dig/Over||Post||Out/Flag||Comeback||Curl||Go/Fade/Seam|
Against Brown and Cobb, I was pleasantly surprised. Robinson was very good in keeping up with 2 ultra quick recievers. Versus Cobb specfically he had some very good coverages where he wasn't falling for some of Cobb's patent head fakes where most defenders would.
Really impressive patience to stick with Cobb there. Against Brown he showed a physicality that I don't think I saw in any of the 7 other games. Maybe that was part of the gameplan or maybe he really felt like his only chance to stop Brown was to be as disruptive as possible.
Robinson is matched up to the top of the screen. He doesn't even let Brown get all the way through his route. He had several coverages like this. Robinson actually got his hand on 4 passes this game, he had chances at 2 INTs.
Where Robinson had success against Brown and Cobb, he appeared to be outmatched by Jones. He either got outmuscled, or Jones just ran right by him to create separation. Jones beat Robinson at the line of scrimmage, at the top of his route, he turned him around. He had his way with him and I wouldn't be surprised if Robinson charged a fee to Jones for what he did to him by the end of the game.
Please let him press, Pagano
Here's a look at Robinson's numbers overall. Honestly, he turned out better than I was expecting.
|Press||Off Cvg||Slot||Slant||5 Yard In||Drag||Dig||Post||Out/Flag||Comeback||Curl||Go/Fade/Seam|
An 84% success rate in press coverage is outstanding. I was very surprised by this. The slot is nearly as impressive, considering that's where Robinson is penciled in to play. I mentioned how he was quick enough to keep up with Cobb and Brown. If you can keep up with those 2, you're bound to have success against anyone else, and that's what happened. For whatever reason, I think in press coverage Robinson is more engaged. He doesn't have to think as much and can just react to what is in front of him. I think his quickness allows him to be more patient than others normally would, putting him in position to make a play on the ball.
I counted 14 pass break ups a year ago. Fourteen. That's in half a season. Gilchrist and Wright had combined in 2014. As the numbers above show, in breaking routes really didn't give Robinson much trouble at all. Which is exactly what you need from your slot defender. Robinson showed he could either cut off routes breaking towards the inside or beat WRs to the ball and make a play. Something us fans were not use to seeing a year ago.
Overthinking in Off Coverage
Just in my experience with doing these and speaking with smart people who know CBs I would say anything below 75% you start treading into the below average waters. Robinson had a success rate of 71% when he was in off coverage. It seemed like he was a totally different player. He didn't have the same aggression, it took away one of his best traits, ability to out quick the receiver to his spot, and he just seemed a step slow. Let's use an example when Robinson was 1-on-1 against Anquan Boldin. It's 3rd and 4, he's in the slot and is playing off coverage.
Boldin runs a savvy veteran route, I'll give him that. However, Robinson is already 4 yards off of the ball and at every level of football the receiver runs his route to the sticks. Even if Robinson had fell for Boldins little jab step to the inside, if he isn't retreating, he's likely able to be quicker to the ball or at least make it a contested catch situation. These are the plays that I will never understand.
Overall Robinson had a 76% success rate, which for your 3rd best CB you could do a lot worse. The majority of Robinson's 25 blown coverages an 8 1st downs given up came when he was playing in off coverage. There was one route specifically that gave Robinson problems.
Out of Place
On out breaking routes, Robinson had a poor success rate of 58%. The Ravens got him a couple times. Here's a 3rd and 2 that would absolutely drive me nuts. Based on the tight aligntment, you should be expecting some sort of pressure out. Again, retreating on 3rd and 2 when you're already in off coverage just cannot happen.
Robinson compounds his mistake by missing the tackle.
I really don't have a reason for why Robinson struggled more with out breaking routes. I think the same was the case for curls and comebacks where his momentum would keep carrying him upfield and he wouldn't be able to get in and out of his breaks fast enough to stick with the receiver. Football Outsiders Scott Kacsmar has always said that charting stats vary year to year with CBs and how there's no change. So for all we know this could be Robinson's strengths this upcoming year. I struggle to find a reason why he's effective breaking inside, no matter what side of the field he is on, opposed to outside.
How does he fit
As long as there isn't a Julio Jones lining up on the other side, Robinson should be fine. He won't be asked to guard the opposing teams best receiver, the Chargers have Brandon Flowers and another guy to do that. From a coverage standpoint Robinson is head and shoulders above Gilchrist/Wright. Not only does he play faster than those 2, he has a better natural feel for coverages. It's obvious that his ball skills are better, it's just a matter of Robinson staying healthy. He missed 14 games in 2013 and a couple games last year due to injury. Against other WRs, San Diego was 26th in DVOA last year. The Saints were 13th. I believe Robinson has the leg up on the nickel back competition because he's a better athlete with better ball skills than Jimmy Wilson, and has more experience and plays to his size unlike Steve Williams. This should be 1 of the better training camp battles when you throw in Craig Mager.