All-22: Tackling, Closing Speed, Hustle Define Robey-Coleman’s Talents
The Eagles added to their extensive collection of nickel defenders last week, signing former Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman to a 1-year deal.
Following a decorated three-year career at USC, Robey-Coleman entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills in 2013. The diminutive, 5-foot-8, 180-pound cornerback has appeared in 111 games (23 starts) over his seven-year career, accounting for 289 tackles (22 for loss), six interceptions (two touchdowns), five sacks, five forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries during that span.
Robey-Coleman experienced early success as a pro, and soon gained notoriety for being among the premier nickel cornerbacks in the NFL. While Robey-Coleman instantly becomes the odds-on favorite to serve as the team’s primary slot defender, he’s expected to be pushed by sixth-year pro Cre’Von LeBlanc for the role in training camp.
Though Robey-Coleman played 708 defensive snaps for the Rams last season (64 percent), he played only 73 snaps on special teams – a number that figures to rise significantly in Philadelphia.
Let’s take a look at Robey-Coleman’s diverse talents.
Robey-Coleman’s football intelligence is an underrated aspect of his game. Watch as Robey-Coleman (No. 23) enters the box, diagnoses the play as the ball is snapped, and smothers 49ers running back Matt Breida for a 6-yard loss on the play.
Robey-Coleman (slot) frequently showcases his tackling prowess. In the next clip, Robey-Coleman (top screen) evades the block of Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller, squares his shoulders and engages in downhill pursuit, limiting running back Tarik Cohen to a 1-yard gain.
On this play, Robey-Coleman (23) is matched up with Bears wide receiver Javon Wims (83) in the slot at the bottom of the screen.
Robey-Coleman demonstrated exceptional mirror-and-match technique against Wims, essentially running the tight end’s route. As Wims attempted to high-point Mitchell Trubisky’s throw, Robey-Coleman was positioned perfectly top get his hands up and break up the pass.
The next play highlights Robey-Coleman’s hustle. Watch as he pursues Steelers wide receiver James Washington (13) from across the field, finishing the play by doing his best Charles Tillman impersonation, punching the football out as the last second.
Thanks to Robey-Coleman’s hustle, his teammate, Corey Littleton, recovered the loose ball in a momentum-shifting play for the Rams.
Another of Robey-Coleman’s strengths is his closing speed. Watch here as he abandons coverage across the middle to track town Teddy Bridgewater (5), which is done by keeping his eyes in the right place the whole time and then shifting into another gear.
Robey-Coleman shows off his explosive burst to close in on the Saints quarterback, effectively thwarting his scramble attempt and limiting him to a 1-yard pickup.
A tough, instinctive defensive back with better-than-average ball skills, Robey-Coleman has ascended into one of the premier slot defenders throughout his seven-year NFL career.
His tough field demeanor and vigorous energy will undoubtedly be a welcome addition to a vastly retooled Philadelphia secondary poised to return to prominence under new defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel.
-Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor to InsideTheBirds.com. He also writes for Pro Football Network.
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