METAIRIE - New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson spent his entire first training camp listening to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams constantly berate him.
Robinson’s second camp has started much better - with less screaming and more playing time.
Robinson, the Saints first-round pick in the 2010 draft, is working with the first-team defense while incumbent starter Tracy Porter continues to rehabilitate his left knee after offseason surgery.
And eight practices into training camp, Williams is singing “Robinson’s praises.”
“Patrick has had a phenomenal camp,” said Williams, who noted that he has yet to yell at Robinson. “You know what? Patrick Robinson is speeding up Tracy Porter’s recovery process. Tracy wants to get back out there in a hurry because he sees how well Patrick is doing.
“And I mean that sincerely.”
Robinson’s time with the first-team defense in Porter’s absence is nothing new to him. He started four games as a rookie when Porter missed playing time because of a knee injury.
But Robinson is now more comfortable, having had an entire season in the NFL to gain experience.
“I know what to do,” Robinson said, “and I’m not trying to over-think things. I think that’s the big difference from last year to this year.”
“Patrick has definitely made a big jump from year one to year two,” said Marques Colston, the Saints’ top wide receiver. “A lot of players normally really come on in their second year and he’s definitely done some great things in this camp so far.”
Free safety Malcolm Jenkins has noticed a difference in Robinson’s play as well, echoing what most of Robinson’s teammates and coaches say about his progression from a year ago - that the difference is like “night and day” for the former Florida State standout.
“I think the biggest thing for Patrick is that he understands the defense now,” said Jenkins. “He came in last year and he had a bunch of talent, and he was our fastest DB. But he had a hard time grasping the defense; this year you can see that he understands it more.
“This year, he’s thinking beyond what the play book tells him. He understands now that it’s a chess game now and had to pick up the mental aspects of the game.”
Robinson’s comfort level has been evident, no more so than on one play in a practice Saturday.
The Saints was working on third-down situations and quarterback Drew Brees set the offense up in a third-and-4, with wide receiver Devery Henderson split to his left.
At the snap, Robinson read the play, a slant pattern to Henderson, and jumped the route. At just the right time, Robinson knocked the ball away from the receiver for an incompletion.
Robinson played in 11 games last season, finishing with 25 tackles. He had a career-best eight tackles against the Arizona Cardinals - which also happened to be his first NFL start.
New Orleans took the 5-foot-11, 191-pounder with the 32nd pick in 2010, building depth at a position that in previous seasons had been a problem area.
He said that hasn’t added any additional pressure, though.
“Not in my opinion,” Robinson said. “I’m just here to do exactly what I’m supposed to do, to be honest. I’m not trying to put any pressure on myself.”
Saints coaches were quietly wondering what kind of shape Robinson would be in once the lockout ended and, to the surprise of defensive backs coach Tony Oden, the cornerback returned in “tip-top shape.”
That has allowed Robinson to focus his entire attention on the field in his second training camp, something Oden said has been evident from the start.
“He came back and it was very, very evident that he had been working hard,” Oden said. “His transition was good from day one. He understands the defense. He understands how the defense pertains to him and the people next to him. He’s starting to think more big picture as opposed to just him.”
As for Williams’ penchant for yelling at the then-rookie a year ago, Robinson said it only helped him.
“I think that makes me better because I know that he sees something in me,” Robinson said. “That’s something I’m very grateful for.”
The Saints had an off day Monday, but they’re scheduled to be back on the practice field Tuesday at 4 p.m. as they continue preparing for Friday night’s exhibition opener against the San Francisco 49ers in the Superdome. Tuesday’s practice, as well as the team’s workouts Wednesday and Thursday, will run from 4-6:30 p.m. and will be open to the public - weather permitting.