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|METAIRIE John Gibson Jersey , La. (AP) — Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson sees his ease in front of a swarm of microphones as symbolic of the more secure person and player he has become since his unsatisfying first stint in New Orleans.
He left the Saints in 2015 as a five-year veteran who’d never quite lived up to expectations since being selected out of Florida State in the first round of the 2010 draft, just months after the Saints had won their only Super Bowl. Now he’s back one season after winning his first Super Bowl with Philadelphia.
“My first tenure here I was quite weak-minded, to be honest,” says Robinson, who signed a four-year free-agent contract worth about $20 million with New Orleans this offseason. “I wasn’t that mentally strong. I left and had some experiences, and that definitely helped me. So now I’m a totally different person.”
Early in his career, Robinson routinely struggled to get out entire sentences without seizing up in awkward silence as he tried to make his mouth utter the words in his head. It was known that he preferred to conduct interviews off camera.
Not anymore. And the way the 30-year-old Robinson sees it, the same growth in maturity and confidence that helped him overcome his speech impediment also helped him on the field, and he asserts that the Saints are regaining his services at a time when he’s the best he’s ever been.
“Going through the trials and tribulations — that really helped me as a person. So I’ve definitely grown since then, a lot,” Robinson said. “I’m more comfortable. I just try not to make it more than what it is.”
Robinson said a combination of self-doubt and a tendency to get discouraged by injuries kept him from playing to his potential early in his career. It also didn’t help that he played man-to-man coverage all throughout his college career. He described learning the Saints’ more exotic defense his rookie season as something akin to “a different language for me. And I was kind of lost — very lost.”
He didn’t become a full-time starter until his third season, in 2012, when New Orleans fielded one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Injuries sidelined him nearly all of the 2013 season Michael Grabner Jersey , when New Orleans defense improved dramatically and the team made the playoffs. He returned as a starter in 2014, when New Orleans again struggled defensively, ranking last in the league, and the Saints missed the playoffs.
Robinson then spent one season each in San Diego and Indianapolis before sliding into a role as a slot defender last season with the Eagles. It seemed to suit him. His four interceptions tied his career high, first set with the Saints in 2011. Robinson added an interception for a 50-yard touchdown in the Eagles’ NFC title game triumph over Minnesota.
Now Robinson even has the confidence to discuss some of the changes he’s noticed in coach Sean Payton since his previous stint with the club.
“I’ve definitely seen a difference. Before he was just like very serious about everything,” Robinson said. “Now he’s kind of lightened up a little bit, has a bit of leeway with certain things.
“I’m not sure why, but he’s a little bit more lenient.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was fresh off his Super Bowl MVP season when he was invited to announce Robinson as the Saints’ top pick in the following draft. He said Robinson’s maturity has been evident in camp.
“He just doesn’t look like a young guy who’s still trying to get it and understand it,” Brees said. “He looks like a guy who’s been there, played that position, and has had that experience. He’s seen that route and that concept. … He is much better with his communication with other defensive backs out there on the field.”
The Green Bay Packers have a new threat in the red zone. Six-foot-7 tight end Jimmy Graham sure does provide an intriguing target for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers' prized offseason free agent acquisition is showing the kind of athleticism in camp that the Packers haven't had in a while at tight end. Receiver Jordy Nelson might be gone, but Graham throws a new wrinkle at opposing defenses.
"He can do it all over the field ... he's an incredible athlete, he's got a wide Auston Matthews Jersey , wide catch radius and there's a lot of things he can do," Rodgers said.
Now the Packers just need to keep Rodgers upright and healthy for a full season again. A glimpse at what life is like without Rodgers showed just how precious these windows of opportunity can be with a two-time NFL MVP at quarterback.
A broken collarbone limited Rodgers to seven games last year, when the Packers failed to make the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. What followed was an offseason of change that included a new general manager, new offensive and defensive coordinators, and the jettisoning of Nelson, a fan favorite.
The Packers are determined to prove 2017 was a fluke.
"We all should be better for the negative experiences that we've encountered in the past 鈥? whether it's our record last year, Aaron's healthy, all of those things," coach Mike McCarthy said on the first day of preseason camp. "We know what our goal is, it's stated, but we're focused on being a world champion every day, and doing it the right way."
Graham has already displayed chemistry with Rodgers in his first Packers camp. The tight end can be a matchup nightmare for defensive backs and linebackers across the middle of the field. That in turn could give receivers Davante Adams and Randall Cobb more room to operate on the outside, or vice versa.
As long as Rodgers is behind center Corey Perry Jersey , the Packers always have a chance to play deep in January.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: To get to a Super Bowl, they might need better production out of the defense. Enter new coordinator Mike Pettine, the former Browns head coach, who is tweaking the 3-4 scheme to give multiple looks and disguise quarterback pressures. Pettine has stressed accountability, while also keeping things simple for players.
"It's just part of the fabric of the defense, and it goes back to the variety of bringing some unconventional players," Pettine said. "It keeps it interesting for the guys. But we'll see."
ON THE CORNER: A cornerback position maligned by injuries over the past few seasons has been reinforced with promising rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson, along with the return of veteran Tramon Williams. He along with Davon House bring stabilizing, veteran presences to the position. A return to health by last year's top draft pick, cornerback Kevin King, might be the most important development for the group.
OFFENSIVE LINE: The Packers have the makings of a strong offensive line when all five starters are healthy. But various injuries have prevented all of them from being on the field at the same time during preseason games. Green Bay has depth, though no backup has emerged as a go-to guy if either left tackle David Bakhtiari or right tackle Bryan Bulaga gets hurt.
CATCHING UP: Adams is the new No. 1 receiver, while Cobb Authentic Mikael Backlund Jersey , in his eighth season, is the now the longest-tenured wideout. Geronimo Allison, who played well in spurts last year, is the clear-cut third receiver. Speedy third-year wideout Trevor Davis has been hampered by a hamstring injury in camp. Behind them, the Packers have inexperience, including three drafted rookies mired in different levels of inconsistency during the camp. Jake Kumerow, an undrafted free agent in his fourth NFL training camp, was impressive enough to catch Rodgers' eye before getting hurt in the Steelers game.
UP FRONT: The defensive line might be the best position group on the team with free agent signee Muhammad Wilkerson joining an already strong core of Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry. The Packers are looking for outside linebacker depth behind veterans Clay Matthews and Nick Perry so they might to get more pass-rush punch from the deep defensive line.
"Everybody on the defense knows Mike Pettine's defense: be physical," Wilkerson said. "At the same time, do your job. Everybody make sure you communicate and ultimately that's about it."
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