During this long offseason, veteran nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman talked with several teams as a free agent. Six or seven teams came calling, including the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks, according to Robey-Coleman. But after waiting for the right opportunity to arise, he chose the Detroit Lions.
The Lions may seem like an odd option for Robey-Coleman. At age 29, we often see veterans like him choose to sign with a contender, and to most, Detroit doesn’t seem like that kind of team. But he doesn’t see it that way.
“I felt like I could come here, put a footprint in this organization, actually be a part of this leadership along with Jeff (Okudah), and do something special, do something big. Not just win, but win big.”
Another big reason he chose Detroit: The people. Robey-Coleman has a working relationship with a lot of people within the organization. Both the Lions' assistant general manager Ray Agnew and general manager Brad Holmes were in the Rams’ personnel department when Robey-Coleman spent three years in Los Angeles. More importantly, during that time with the Rams—in which he played arguably his best football—he was coached up by current Lions defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant.
“I’ve got so much love and respect for Aubrey, so much love and respect for Brad. When I came here it just felt right, it was right.”
Pleasant, in particular, was a big draw for Robey-Coleman, because he cares about his players, even if it means giving it to them straight when they aren’t meeting expectations.
“He’s going to be a prick sometimes because he wants you to be great,” Robey-Coleman said. “He doesn’t want you to be mediocre and be OK with that. If he sees you slipping, he’s going to let you know.”
In Detroit, Robey-Coleman will have a legitimate shot to make the team and even start. With Corn Elder still dealing with an injury, Robey-Coleman will compete with Mike Ford for the starting nickel cornerback job. But this week, head coach Dan Campbell noted that Ford will be getting more run on the outside, giving Robey-Coleman the inside track for a contributing role right away.
While we haven’t seen much of Robey-Coleman yet, he doesn’t expect the acclimation period to last long. Not only has he been keeping in shape all offseason while waiting for the right opportunity to rise, but the Lions are running a very similar scheme to what he was used to, and he loves it.
“This scheme got us to the Super Bowl, won an NFC championship, then before then we were making playoff appearances,” he said. “We created a lot of turnovers on the front end, getting sacks, and on the back end getting interceptions and forced fumbles. The D-line and the back end can work together, marry up together, it’ll look real good.”