Saints CB Robinson eager to assume starting role

Patrick Robinson remembers feeling a sense of loss on a day when

he could have been pumped up about his arrival as a projected

starter in the NFL.

Tracy Porter, a starting cornerback with the Saints the past

four seasons, had just signed a free-agent deal with Denver.

That move left Robinson, a 2010 first-round draft choice out of

Florida State, as the heir apparent to Porter’s old job.

”I was kind of sad because when I first got here, (Porter) was

definitely one of the guys who helped me a lot,” Robinson said.

”I knew eventually I was going to get my chance to start, but I

didn’t know it was going to be when it happened. That’s what it is

now. I’m a starter and I’ve got to make the plays.”

He has started to do that in practice. He intercepted Drew

Brees’ pass intended for Marques Colston deep down the left

sideline this week.

New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was impressed,

particularly because Robinson made the play in his first practice

back from a sprained left shoulder that had forced him to miss more

than a week of practice, as well as two preseason games.

”He stayed stride for stride. He was in phase with the receiver

which tells you he’s got skill enough to run with him,” Spagnuolo

said. ”If you can get that kind of play out of your corner, it

helps you call defenses pretty good because you can do some things

you wouldn’t typically be able to do.”

Robinson is slated to start on Friday night when the Saints (No.

9 in the AP Pro32) host Jacksonville (No. 31) in a game that will

also mark Robinson’s first action of the preseason.

”I’m anxious to see that,” Spagnuolo said. ”He had a good

week of practice, made a couple of plays. I know the defense is

real comfortable when he’s in there communicating-wise on the back

end. So we’ll see where he is.”

Robinson’s emergence began last season, when he started seven

games because of injuries to Porter. In other games, he was the

nickel back, and wound up leading the club with four


His performance in 2011 represented a drastic improvement over

2010, when he took a lot of criticism for getting caught out of

position and had some impatient fans wondering if he was a

first-round bust.

”In his first year in the league he was very, very lost. I

think the speed of the game was a lot,” Saints safety Malcolm

Jenkins said. ”From his first year to his second year he learned

football and he learned the defense, so now his instincts are

paired up with his knowledge of the game. Now he’s taking

calculated risks and he’s really making a lot of plays. He plays

the ball well. He’s going to be a good corner for us.”

Robinson agreed his rookie season was a struggle.

”My first year was a huge learning curve because when I was in

college it was pretty basic,” he said. ”When I got here, there

were a lot of things that I had never done in college, and then the

game is a lot faster.”

Spagnuolo sees the 5-foot-11, 191-pound Robinson as a

prototypical ”long-armed press corner,” meaning he is not only

fast but has the build to knock receivers off their routes when

contact is permitted within 5 yards from scrimmage.

Last year, the Saints played a lot of man-to-man coverage

because of all the blitzing they did under former defensive

coordinator Gregg Williams. Now they are playing mostly a press


Robinson said that while the old defense tested his physical

skills more, the new defense tests his mental acumen.

”So this year, it’s easier for me to make plays – as long as

I’m in the right place,” Robinson said.

As Robinson has adjusted to the NFL, he has made some other

changes in his life. Last year, he cut off the dreadlocks he’d had

since eighth grade. And this season has decided to go with a close,

clean cut, which he joked was more comfortable in New Orleans’ heat

and humidity.

He also has worked on his speech, trying to overcome a stammer

that he has struggled with much of his life. Now in one-on-one

interviews, he speaks slowly, smoothly and softly, but says he

still finds himself unable to get words out at times.

”It’s very tough because there are a lot of things you want to

say, but you can’t say it at the time because you get stuck,” he

said. ”I just try to fight through it.”

Fortunately, he has always been able to communicate

instinctively on the field.

”The crazy thing is it’s never a problem on the field,”

Robinson said. ”That’s very mind-boggling for me.”

He may find the answer to that one day. For now, though, he’s

happy to have figured out pro football to the point where

expectations for him are high entering his third season.

”A lot of guys in this league that have a lot of ability but

never quite play up to their ability, or don’t do it

consistently,” Robinson said. ”So definitely, my main two goals

are to be very consistent and play at a high level all of the


Notes: Drew Brees announced on his Twitter page that his third

son, Callen Christian Brees, was born Wednesday evening. Brees did

not miss a single practice this week and is expected to play

against the Jaguars. … CB Marquis Johnson returned to practice

after sitting out on Wednesday with a sore left knee. … Reserve

linebacker Aaron Tevis also returned from a knee injury.

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