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Baldy Breakdowns: P-Rob returns to New Orleans one of football’s best slot corners

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Patrick Robinson has been much-maligned in New Orleans, but his three-year exile changed him for the better.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - Philadelphia Eagles slot cornerback Patrick Robinson (21) returns his fifth interception of the year to score during the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - Philadelphia Eagles slot cornerback Patrick Robinson (21) returns his fifth interception of the year to score during the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints re-signed former first round pick Patrick Robinson in one of the stranger, less-expected moves of free agency’s opening salvo. Robinson never quite lived up to his draft billing and exited New Orleans without contest, going on a three-year sabbatical with the then-San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, and Philadelphia Eagles.

In New Orleans, Robinson was known as a superb athlete prone to panic when asked to track the ball in flight. Robinson was also a bit of a penalty magnet, picking up holding and pass interference flags almost weekly - he was called with 19 penalties in 58 games with the Saints. A bit of a feast-or-famine talent, Robinson did come down with some of the most-impressive interceptions you’ll see, getting nine of them while playing for New Orleans:

Abroad, Robinson found himself and really turned things around. His new coaches limited his responsibilities to slot coverage, and he flourished. With less on his plate (and less-elite receivers across from him), Robinson rapidly developed into one of the NFL’s best slot corners. That all culminated with this standout play for the Super Bowl Champion Eagles during their NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings:

Robinson was one of Philadelphia’s best defenders last year, leading the title-winners in interceptions (five, including the postseason) and pass breakups (nineteen). He was also a much more disciplined cover man, drawing just four penalties all season. That happened while playing the fifth-most defensive snaps (710) for Philadelphia, per Pro-Football-Reference.com.

So this establishes that the Saints have a very clear plan for how they’ll deploy Robinson. He won’t be tasked with running down the sideline against the likes of Julio Jones and Mike Evans anymore; instead, he’ll be manning the slot to defend two-way goes and pick up crossing runners as a space player. He did that well in Philadelphia (and Indianapolis and San Diego), and should continue to do it well in New Orleans:

To top it all off, the Saints got Robinson at a lower cost than what he was offered to stay in Philly, per Jenna Laine of ESPN. His four-year, $20-million contract ranks him firmly within the league’s 30- to 40-range of cornerbacks in average salary per year. That’s great value for one of the best slot defenders in the NFL.

Robinson’s return gives the Saints a secondary filled with lengthy, athletic defensive backs who communicate well and boast some ball skills. Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, Ken Crawley, Vonn Bell, and Kurt Coleman all have roles to fill, and Robinson should fit in with them just fine. He definitely upgrades the slot defender spot manned last year by Kenny Vaccaro and P.J. Williams - Robinson allowed a meager 64.96 passer rating when covering the slot last year, while the Saints as a team managed a more-pedestrian 94.23, per Nick Underhill of the Advocate.