Nickell Robey-Coleman gets overlooked in Rams' star-studded secondary
On paper, the Los Angeles Rams appear to have one of the best secondaries in football. It looked that way last season, too, with Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters joining the fray in trades. The pass defense didn’t live up to the hype in 2018, but it should be even better next season.
Eric Weddle slides in at safety next to John Johnson III, while Nickell Robey-Coleman maintains his role as the slot corner. Much is made about Weddle, Peters and Talib – and rightfully so – but Robey-Coleman deserves more attention as one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the NFL. That’s exactly what he was last season, putting together the best year of his career.
According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed first downs on just 23.6 percent of his targets, which was the lowest rate of any slot corner. Additionally, his slot coverage grade of 83.8 ranked fourth among all players. PFF ranked him fourth among slot cornerbacks last season, behind only Desmond King, Chris Harris Jr. and Jason McCourty.
For a player making just $5.2 million per year, those are some impressive numbers. He doesn’t get much attention for a few reasons, primarily because of the position he plays. Last season, Robey-Coleman was on the field for just 55 percent of the defensive snaps, compared to 90.5 percent for Peters. Talib missed eight-plus games and still played 38.4 percent of the team’s snaps because he was a boundary cornerback.
Slot corners don’t get the recognition that outside defenders do. It’s why you hear more about Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey than Justin Coleman, King and McCourty. That doesn’t make them significantly less valuable than outside cornerbacks, especially in today’s game where nickel packages are essentially base defenses, but it does give them more attention.
The names around Robey-Coleman in the secondary also cause him to be overlooked. Everyone knows the names of Peters, Talib and Weddle. Last season, Lamarcus Joyner was there, as well, playing on the $11.3 million franchise tag. Robey-Coleman flew under the radar while covering the middle of the field, locking down many of the best slot receivers in the league.
His contract is a bargain for the Rams and assuming he continues to play at a high level, he should earn more praise as a top nickel corner in the league. Hopefully fans will remember him more for his good plays than the controversial no-call in the NFC championship game, too.