Patrick Robinson points to his head. Here is where it all starts for Robinson, the Eagles' cornerback who has turned heads and shut down wide receivers in 10 games for a defense that has been nothing short of outstanding as the Eagles have burst to a 9-1, best-in-the-NFL record.
"It's never been about me not being fast enough, athletic enough, or not being able to cover guys," Robinson said on Tuesday in front of his locker at the NovaCare Complex. "That's never been an issue. I think it was my mindset, making sure I stay consistent with my preparation as far as taking care of my body, and doing it consistently instead of losing focus."
Robinson became an unrestricted free agent after an injury-plagued season in 2016 with Indianapolis and he signed a one-year contract with the Eagles. They saw him as a veteran talent who could maybe match up nicely as a nickel cornerback against quicker slot receivers.
But there were no givens. The risk was minimal. Robinson came here with a prove-it mentality.
And he's done that. Oh boy, has he ever.
Robinson is tied for the most interceptions on the team with three. He has the most passes defensed, with 15. He has tackled extremely well and given the secondary a gigantic boost with his ability to play in the nickel inside and on the island on the outside.
The thing is, Robinson is a big-time talent. He was a first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints (32nd overall, 2010). He's had trouble finding a long-term home in the NFL primarily because of injuries, not a lack of skills.
A month or so after the Eagles signed Robinson, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spoke in glowing terms about him.
"Two years ago, we evaluated him when he was with San Diego. I thought he had a really good year. He had some inside-outside flexibility. Played nickel, played outside. And we liked what we saw. He obviously signed with Indianapolis," Schwartz said.
"Then last year was a bit of a lost season for him with injuries. He looks like he's back healthy now. He's a guy that brings some experience in there. He's really quick, he's really fast. He's been around the NFL. So those are all good attributes to have. Just like any other veteran player ... the biggest challenge for those guys a lot of times is trying to switch everything to their own terminology.
"There are some things that maybe you do a little bit different than the team that they were with before. But usually that's their adjustment. So those guys, for lack of a better way to put it, they're a little bit behind the other guys because they don't have the base of knowledge of 16 games and Training Camp and all those things. But in my experience, those guys catch up quick because they have so much experience."
So it's the head. Robinson caught up with the terminology, went through an up-and-down summer, and has been outstanding since the regular-season lights went on.
He is a muscular 5-11, 190-pounder who is willing to mix it up physically.
And he's playing outstanding football week in and week out. He's preparing consistently. He has been blessed with good health through 10 games.
It's all between the ears, otherwise.
"I've been consistent. And it goes back to preparation. It's also mental with me – not getting down on myself, not looking too far ahead," he said. "Those are things that I've done in the past. I'm staying on point with studying and with doing the things I need to do.
"I feel great about where we're doing right now. We're winning, we're playing great defense, and we're helping the offense, helping the special teams. Right now, I feel great about it."
It's fair to say that the Eagles' defensive backfield was considered the major question mark coming into the season. Jalen Mills was the only returning cornerback in the defense. Robinson was an unknown. Ronald Darby was added late in the preseason. Rasul Douglas, a rookie, played in community college three seasons earlier. Sidney Jones, another rookie, wasn't ready to step on the practice field.
Questions everywhere. Fair questions, no doubt.
But look what's happened. The Eagles are taking the football away and setting up the offense. They're limiting big passing plays down the field, those nasty "X" plays that plagued the defense in the past. They've tackled extremely well.
It's all come together so wonderfully, and Robinson is a major reason for that.
"I'm proud of PRob," defensive backs coach Cory Undlin said. "He's been a professional since Day 1 and all of the work he's put in has paid off. He's played great football for us. He's having fun out there balling. He's really done it all for us, inside and outside."
Is it talent? Yes, of course. Without that, you can't succeed in the NFL. Heart? Gotta have it. Luck? Every player prays for it.
Robinson has gained the edge in his eighth NFL season by staying a step ahead with his preparation and with his mindset. He's at his best right now, and he's got more to give down the stretch of this season. As far as additions go to this 2017 Eagles team, Patrick Robinson has very much been one of the most valuable.