Denard Robinson's rookie season in the NFL was a bit of a whirlwind, to put it mildly. He was the fifth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, viewed as a wide receiver in the NFL by many despite his struggles at the Senior Bowl catching the football.
When his name was called at the draft, the Jaguars made sure his position was read as "running back", because that's how the team viewed him initially, and it should still be how they view him.
Robinson was given a buffet of responsibility early in training camp as an "offensive weapon", doing a bit of everything, before it was slowly whittled down to just being a running back and a player to use on some read-option type plays. He flashed ability in training camp with his speed and ability to find running lanes, but it never seemed to materialize on the field during the season.
The few times it did however, Robinson had trouble holding on to the football, be it in the form of a fumble or a drop. Drops were a big time issue in training camp and really limited his effectiveness in the offense, because he could literally do just one thing reliably out of the backfield.
"I just didn't do the little things I think I'm capable of doing," Robinson told ESPN's Mike DiRocco. "I feel like I did learn. I did get better. So I'm going to take that in stride and just keep getting better."
"Hands" are an odd thing to work on however, as a lot of the times it seems to just be a natural ability more than anything else. One area where a player can improve on their hands though, is just pure concentration. A lot of Robinson's dropped stemmed from the fact that it was something he wasn't accustomed to doing and that he was trying to run with the ball before securing the catch.
"Just little things like catching the ball, getting in and out of my breaks all the time when I'm running the ball, little things like that," Robinson told DiRocco. "Trusting the process and just being patience with my runs and stuff like that."
Robinson ended his rookie season with just 20 carries for 66 yards, which included three fumbles. He didn't catch a single pass all season and some of his best runs of the year were marred by either a penalty negating it or a fumble. He was targeted for just one pass all season, which resulted in a drop.
Many expected quite a bit out of Robinson his rookie year, because of the flashes he showed in training camp, which lead to some unrealistic expectations for him in year one. My expectations for Robinson were a bit higher than what ended up happening, but I also didn't expect fumbling to be a big time issue with him.
Going forward, I think the Jaguars give Robinson next season to attempt to show what he can do before the experiment begins to wain. The team is still rebuilding, so they can afford a roster spot to an "experiment" with a talent like Robinson's. If he can get a little bigger up top, take care of the ball and settle into the running back position for Jacksonville, I believe he can be a contributor on the offense, even if it's just carrying the football.
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