Grading Eagles moves: Nickell Robey-Coleman

The Eagles need cornerbacks, sure, but did they really need another slot corner? A fair question to ask when assessing the free-agent addition of Nickell Robey-Coleman on Wednesday.

By my count, the Eagles have no fewer than six players who can line up in the slot. It’s Cre’Von LeBlanc’s natural position. Many project Avonte Maddox there, too. Sidney Jones saw time inside each of the past two seasons, for what it’s worth. Though listed as safeties on paper, Jalen Mills and Will Parks will cover slot receivers as well.

Now there’s Robey-Coleman. I’ll spare you the Nickell/nickel puns (for now at least), but that’s pretty much been his role for seven seasons in the NFL.
There’s a long line of potential candidates for that role, for sure, though Robey-Coleman might be the best of the bunch. At least, none have the track record, either in terms of performance or availability.

Robey-Coleman has missed just one game in his career, and despite being around for awhile, he’s only 28, so there’s reason to anticipate his body breaking down anytime soon. It’s a one-year deal, so no long-term risk for the Eagles regardless, and reportedly for only $1.3 million at that.

And of the other options, who is proven better than Robey-Coleman, or even particularly good in the slot? LeBlanc had a strong half-season two years ago after bouncing around the league. Maddox has been very inconsistent in his brief career. Jones has been consistently injured or bad. And Mills and Parks are still safeties by trade.

When you look at it like that, you can’t blame the Eagles for bringing in a corner who’s been productive year in, year out.

Plus, seeing as Robey-Coleman measures in at just 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, Mills and Parks are likely to still get plenty of work against bigger slot receivers.

Robey-Coleman spent a season with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz when the pair was in Buffalo in 2014, and the last three years with the Los Angeles Rams, serving as the both the No. 1 Nickell AND nickel corner (there it is…) on a conference championship team in ’18. He may be unheralded, but you can’t argue his resume.

At the very least, he’s solid, which is an upgrade over what the Eagles had. The addition of Robey-Coleman also means, along with Slay, presumably only one starting cornerback job is left to fill.

You’d much rather have LeBlanc, Maddox, Jones and a draft pick competing over one spot than trying to figure out the top two.

Grade: A-

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Jalen Mills is back with the Eagles on a one-year deal for 2020 but he isn’t coming back as a pure corner. He’s going to be more of a hybrid player this upcoming season. 

In an interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark on Wednesday, Mills said his role will be “something similar” to the role Malcolm Jenkins had with the Eagles over the last several seasons. 

Mills knows those are enormous shoes to fill. 

That’s going to be big bro forever,” Mills said about Jenkins. “I think as far as expectations, his name holds the weight. He’s a Philly icon, Philly legend, I feel like his jersey should probably get retired there. As far as people saying that (replacing Jenkins), I know for sure it’s going to be a really, really big target on my back.

It’s hard to imagine the Eagles simply asking Mills to replace all that Jenkins did for the team in recent years. So while Mills’ role will be a more versatile one going forward, don’t expect a simple plug-and-play here. 

Mills said after the Eagles let Jenkins walk and re-signed him, he and Jenkins communicated through text messages. Mills thanked Jenkins, who is heading back to New Orleans, for teaching him how to be a leader. 

Mills, 25, first learned about the Eagles’ plan to play him at safety this offseason through his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Howie Roseman relayed the information to Rosenhaus, who relayed it to Mills around the time of the Senior Bowl or NFL Combine. 

Then the Eagles and Mills agreed to a one-year contract worth $4 million. 

As Mills understands it, in his new role he’ll be a Swiss Army Knife of sorts. Jim Schwartz might play him at nickel corner or dime linebacker or corner or free safety or strong safety depending on the game plan for the upcoming week. 

“I see myself as a Charles Woodson type, a guy who can just play it all,” Mills said. “You can line me up from the left side of the field all the way to the right side of the field.”

For what it’s worth, Mills did play a bunch of different positions during his time at LSU but has been predominantly an outside cornerback since he was drafted in the seventh round back in 2016. He’s had his ups and downs in that role and in the last two seasons has missed nearly as many games as he’s played because of injury. 

In addition to bringing back Mills and Rodney McLeod, the Eagles also traded for Darius Slay and agreed to terms with free agents Will Parks and Nickell Roby-Coleman. It seems like the Eagles are stockpiling nickel corners but they have a bunch of guys with position versatility in their new-look secondary. 

That, in particular, has Mills excited. 

“I think our secondary is going to be very, very dynamic,” Mills said. “We got a lot of guys who can move in a lot of different places. I think that’s the key at this point. You can’t line up in the same looks, you can’t have guys in the same spot. Quarterbacks and offensive coordinators, they latch on and they see that and then you get predictable. I think as far as that goes, our secondary is going to be very, very dynamic.”

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

The Eagles are bringing in another veteran cornerback who does his best work in the slot. 

This time, they agreed to terms of a one-year contract with aptly-named Nickell Robey-Coleman.  

Robey-Coleman, 28, has been in the league for seven seasons and has played in 111 games with 23 starts. 

At 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, Robey-Coleman has primarily been a nickel corner throughout his NFL career, which means the Eagles have added yet another inside corner. Robey-Coleman has played the majority of his NFL snaps at the nickel corner spot. The Eagles already have Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc, who are both best inside too. 

So this doesn’t answer the most obvious question for the Eagles in their secondary: Who plays opposite Darius Slay outside? 

The answer could very well be Maddox, whom the team has a lot of confidence in outside. The Eagles also have Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas still under contract, but were reportedly shopping Douglas last week. 

Robey-Coleman entered the league out of USC as an undrafted free agent with the Bills in 2013. In 2014, he played under Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. 

In his one season under Schwartz, Robey-Coleman played in all 16 games and started seven. Those seven starts are a career-high for him. 

After leaving Buffalo, Robey-Coleman played the last three seasons with the Rams in LA. They declined his option for 2020 earlier this month. 

In seven NFL seasons, Robey-Coleman has 6 interceptions, 48 pass breakups, 3 total touchdowns, 5 forced fumbles and 5 fumble recoveries. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Read More

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button