Eagles Newest Cornerback Bringing ‘Hard Hat to the Table’

Nickell Robey-Coleman

Getty Images The Los Angeles Rams declined their team option for CB Nickell Robey-Coleman on March 17.

Nickell Robey-Coleman calls himself the “Slot God.” That’s a pretty confident boast and tough reputation to uphold.

And the former Rams cornerback has mostly lived up to the bravado, with both his mental preparation and play on the field. He finished last season as the 19th-best corner in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, and allowed just 0.63 yards per slot coverage snap. In seven seasons, Robey-Coleman has accumulated six interceptions and 48 passes defensed — and one controversial career-defining, highlight-reel play.

But the 28-year-old is starting fresh in Philadelphia after Los Angeles declined to exercise the option on the final year of his contract. The Eagles swooped in and handed Robey-Coleman a one-year deal worth up to $1.3 million, per ESPN. Now the veteran slot corner will have to battle Cre’Von LeBlanc for snaps and a possible starting role. Measuring a slight 5-foot-8, he’s ready to fight for every inch.

“I’m a fighter, that’s what I do, I fight. I’m gritty,” Robey Coleman told Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. “And I just know how to use my size to my advantage the best way I know how to. And just being a smart football player, and always to fight, all my career I had to fight, everywhere I went I had to fight and work my way up and constantly just prove people wrong throughout my whole career.”

Robey-Coleman admitted he is still getting to know his new coaches and teammates, in a virtual manner due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While he doesn’t know anyone in the current Eagles’ locker room, he did chat with former Eagles pass-rusher Connor Barwin. The two were teammates for one season in Los Angeles. He is well aware of the blue-collar mentality needed to fit in.

“This team has been doing great well before I got here so I’m just going to put in my part and play my role and just do my job and do what I have to do to make the team that much better,” Robey-Coleman said. “I’m competitive and Philly is a competitive city and it’s a competitive organization. I feel like my competitiveness and, me bringing my hard hat to the table, is only going to make the situation that much better.”

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Eagles CB Ready to Live Up to Expectations in Philly

The first thing players do when coming to a new organization is to evaluate the fan base. It’s a good gauge of how much they need to elevate their game. It’s also a solid barometer on what to say in the press. For Robey-Coleman, it’s all about living up to expectations.

“I heard a lot about Philly, especially about the fan base. I heard the fan base is very ecstatic and very enthusiastic,” Robey-Coleman told Spadaro. “Y’all follow your team and y’all very passionate and y’all diehard, that’s what I know about the fan base. As far as the organization, it’s a historical place to play in, and I guess you got to live up to those expectations when you get out on the field.”

Despite his unceremonious exit from Los Angeles, the Florida native said he has no “love lost” for the Rams organization. Business is business, although their timing could have been better. The Rams waited until the day before the start of free agency to release him.

“I knew I was coming up on an option year but it kind of surprised me because of how late they made the decision,” Robey-Coleman said. “It’s a business and I understand that and there’s no love lost with the Rams.”

Understanding Slot Corner Versus Boundary Corner

Slot corners are suddenly in high demand as offenses continue to get more vertical. Guys like Cooper Kupp and Keenan Allen have put a premium on the position. Someone has to trace those pesky receivers around in the middle of the field.

But what exactly does the slot corner do differently than his colleague on the outside? Well, he has to cover a lot more space and make split-second decisions.

“What people don’t know about the slot is you can go three different ways: you can go vertical, you can go in or you can go out, and there’s no sideline,” Robey-Coleman told Spadaro. “On the outside, you have the sideline to your advantage, and you can play off that, you can use the sideline as your best friend. But in the slot, it’s just straight space. It’s all space, so it’s a different mindset.”

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Think about it. The slot cornerback has to outwit his opponent and predict which way they are going to break in real-time, whereas the boundary corner can shrink the field by pushing his mark outside toward the sideline. Then, there is the whole issue of stopping the run.

“In the slot, you have to be involved with the run and you have certain blitzes that are called up,” Robey-Coleman said. “You’re working with all three levels of the defense and you have to be pretty witty to be in the slot because they throw different things at you in the slot.”

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