When evaluating some of the moves Howie Roseman has made this offseason, it’s easy to overlook the signing of slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman. Especially since the team went out and acquired Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay.
Nickel corner wasn’t a huge need heading into this offseason. The team likes what they have in Cre’Von Leblanc, and Avonte Maddox has shown the ability to be an effective nickel corner as well. But, bringing in one of the best nickel corners in football for just $1.35 million is hard to pass up.
Barring injury, there’s no doubt Robey-Coleman should hold down the nickel spot this season. According to Pro Football Focus, Robey-Coleman has graded out as a top-25 corner in each of the last four seasons. In 2019, he allowed a passer rating of 80.1 when targeted, good for 13th among all corners.
Robey-Coleman is probably best known for his infamous pass interference no-call in the 2018 NFC Championship game, but that shouldn’t take away from the solid seven-year career he’s been able to put together.
The nickel position in Jim Schwartz’s defense is pivotal to the defense’s success as a whole. Schwartz’s base defense is his nickel package. The Eagles defense is at its best when they have a reliable nickel corner who can make plays.
Back in the Super Bowl year, Patrick Robinson was that guy for Schwartz’s unit, and he was easily one of the most valuable pieces to that championship defense. He finished that year with a career high in interceptions (4), and he opened the flood gates with his remarkable pick-six against the Vikings in the NFC Championship game.
Fast forward to following year, and we saw Cre’Von Leblanc step up big time towards the end of that season. He made some huge plays during that postseason run, including intercepting Drew Brees on the first play from scrimmage in the divisional round.
What makes this secondary interesting is the amount of depth and versatility among the corners. They essentially have three starting caliber nickel corners in Robey-Coleman, Leblanc and Maddox. Maddox has proven he can play all over the defensive backfield, so I expect Schwartz to utilize him in a variety of different ways.
In order to get both Robey-Coleman and Leblanc on the field at the same time, we could see a heavier dose of dime packages in 2020. Malcolm Jenkins used to come down from the safety position and play in the slot in dime situations, but now that he’s gone, the duo of Robey-Coleman and Leblanc should be able to hold it down.
Slay was clearly the marquee acquisition for the Birds this offseason, but we should be equally as excited about what Robey-Coleman can bring to the table.