Patrick Robinson's resilience paid off

METAIRIE, La. -- The main reason the New Orleans Saints decided to let veteran cornerback Champ Bailey go?

Patrick Robinson wasn't ready to give up his spot.

Robinson’s return to the starting lineup after recovering from a major knee injury was the Saints’ best “comeback story” of the summer.

There are still some fair question marks about whether Robinson will be able to produce on a consistent basis, since the former first-round draft pick has shown some ups and downs throughout his first four NFL seasons.

But no one should question Robinson’s resilience after he has continued to bounce back from adversity.

“Well, to be honest, I definitely wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out,” Robinson said. “But I think I still believed in myself and my skills that I have. And I think that’s the main thing.”

Robinson said it was good to know that the Saints still believed in him as well.

The Saints continued to show that faith in Robinson, despite the turbulence of his past two seasons.

Robinson struggled mightily as a starter in 2012 (the same season in which the entire Saints defense struggled mightily). Then they signed cornerback Keenan Lewis to replace him in the starting lineup last year. Then Robinson suffered a season-ending patellar injury in Week 2 last season while serving as a nickelback.

But the Saints held on to Robinson this offseason, even while they were trimming salary-cap space throughout the roster. And they gave him the opportunity to beat out Bailey and Corey White for the starting job that was vacated when veteran Jabari Greer suffered his own major knee injury last season.

Robinson continued to show his great speed and athleticism this summer -- as well as flashes of his big-play ability (his seven interceptions between 2011-12 led the Saints over that two-year span).

Greer said recently that he expected Robinson to win the starting job because he is “one of the best athletes on the team.” But Greer echoed what coaches have said about Robinson in the past, that confidence is the biggest key with him.

“He can be in the talk as one of the best cornerbacks in the league once he completes his game,” Greer said. “But the mental aspect of overcoming adversity, trusting yourself and believing that you have everything it takes to be a dominant corner is the only question with Patrick Robinson.”

Robinson has acknowledged that, too. But his performance this summer and the way he was rewarded for it should only help increase that confidence.

As for Robinson’s performance in the preseason finale -- during which the Baltimore Ravens picked on him with a series of short- and mid-range passes -- Robinson said it could have been better, and it could have been worse.

“I was disappointed in my performance. I thought I could’ve played a little better,” Robinson said. “But I didn’t give up any deep passes or anything like that. You want an offense to go down the field the long way.”

That will be a huge key for Robinson, starting this week against an explosive Atlanta Falcons passing attack that will want to go deep with receivers like Julio Jones and Roddy White. Robinson’s biggest struggles in the past have come in press coverage (his performance against the Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant in 2012 was a low point).

“Definitely, you know with guys like Julio, you've got to make sure you’re on top of your game,” Robinson said.

As for the idea that he beat out a future Hall of Famer in Bailey, Robinson said it was a confidence boost, but a “bummer” at the same time. “During camp, I was trying to see the things he liked to do. You want to learn from a guy like that,” Robinson said. “But that’s the league. That’s the business of the league.”

Saints coach Sean Payton confirmed that Bailey was released in large part because he didn’t win a starting job and didn’t figure into the team’s special-teams plans.

“It really ended up revolving around what the role would be on game day, and then who is currently receiving the snaps ahead of him,” Payton said.