From one week to the next, Nickell Robey-Coleman knows the challenges of playing as an inside cornerback. He could see a big, hulking, space-eating receiver on one Sunday and then work against a small, shifty route runner the next week. They come in all shapes and sizes as NFL offenses continue to spread the field and create matchups in space.
And that's where Robey-Coleman excels.
"I'm a fighter. That's what I do. I fight," Robey-Coleman said on Wednesday in a phone interview from Orlando where he's training. "I'm gritty and I know how to use my size to my advantage the best way that I know how to and just being a smart football player. I'm always defying odds. All my career, wherever I went, I had to fight and work my way up and just constantly prove people wrong.
"Me playing at a high level is my preparation, the way I approach everything from a process standpoint and just being a pure professional in the way I go about things. That really kept me at a high level and it kept me in the game. I continue to use that and I don't change."
Robey-Coleman, with the Eagles on a one-year contract after the Rams declined his 2020 contract option on March 17, is here to compete for playing time at the nickel cornerback position. The Eagles have used Cre'Von LeBlanc and Avonte Maddox in the past couple of seasons, with success. But Maddox can play outside, and he may see more time there in 2020, and Robey-Coleman has the athletic skills – "He's twitched-up," said Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman – to make for a very interesting competition when the Eagles get into the on-field preparation for the season, whenever that is.
In the meantime, Robey-Coleman is doing his own work in a private training setting in Florida, excited to get it rolling with the Eagles.
"I heard a lot about Philly, especially about the fan base," Robey-Coleman said. "I heard the fan base is very ecstatic and very enthusiastic. I played there and I played against you guys a couple of times and you all follow your team. You're very passionate, diehards. As far as the organization, it's a historical place to play and I definitely have to live up to those expectations when I get there."
As for excelling inside, Robey-Coleman has been doing it for his entire NFL career, dating back to 2013 when he entered the professional ranks as an undrafted rookie with Buffalo. Robey-Coleman is listed at 5-feet-8, 180 pounds and he's been told his entire life that he's too small to make it big.
Clearly, that's nonsense.
Robey-Coleman, if all goes according to plan, provides a significant upgrade to the Eagles' secondary in terms of versatility and tenacity.
"From a schematic standpoint, I have not dug into the playbook yet," he said, "but I feel like I'm interchangeable to any scheme and I feel like with the ability of the team that we have and my skill set, I'm just a piece of the puzzle. This team has been doing great well before I got here, so I'm just going to put in my part, put in my role, and just do my job and do what I have to do to make the team that much better. I'm competitive and Philly is a competitive city in itself and it's a competitive organization.
"Me bringing my hard hat to the table is only going to make the situation that much better."
Robey-Coleman said that the play in the 2018 NFC Championship Game in New Orleans against the Saints, when he was not called for an obvious pass interference penalty against receiver Tommylee Lewis that triggered a change in the way the league officiated and ruled on the pass interference penalty, made him a better player in the long run. He was the subject of a lot of scrutiny and criticism and attention and he's ultimately aware of the impact that singular play had on the game of football.
"I was getting a lot of attention, good and bad, and I still had to hone in and put my blinders on and focus on my craft and prepare for a huge Super Bowl game," he said. "It was a challenge, but I found a way to maintain my focus and go out there and put on the best performance I could put on."
All of that is in the past, of course. Robey-Coleman is an Eagle now, and he's got a new locker room and a new organization to greet. His acquisition is part of a significant upgrade to the talent on that side of the ball in this offseason for the Eagles.
"I love what the team has done and I can't wait to get it started," he said. "It's going to be fun in Philly, I can tell you that."