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The Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock. Man, does it feel good to say that!
It’s not often you find a franchise player in undrafted free agency. It’s even less often to see that franchise player’s career erupt from the very first week of the regular season without a single snap of preseason football.
That’s what happened last year with James Robinson, who would go on to finish his rookie season as one of the top candidates for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
With the changing of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ guard, there hasn’t been as much talk about the running backs. After all, new head coach Urban Meyer seem poised and ready to attack the quarterback position, likely selecting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. But even with a rookie quarterback on the horizon (or perhaps especially with a rookie quarterback on the horizon) Robinson shouldn’t simply be forgotten.
On the year, Robinson accounted for 1,070 rushing yards on 240 carries (4.5 yards per attempt) along with 49 receptions for 344 yards for 10 total touchdowns.
Robinson would finish the season playing in just 14 games, two lost due to injury, and 34 yards shy of breaking the undrafted rookie record for most rushing yards, held by Dominic Rhodes since 2001.
It’s a feat that hasn’t gone unnoticed, even by the new regime.
In speaking to reporters last week, new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spoke highly of the young running back, having watched Robinson recently after officially becoming the team’s offensive coordinator, meeting with him for the first time on Thursday of last week.
“James had an outstanding year,” Bevell began.
“[He] had a really nice year for himself, obviously an undrafted rookie coming out and played really well. I like his skill set. I like the way he cut the ball. He’s got really good vision. He’s got great contact balance. He can make guys miss at the second level. He can make guys miss and get what we need to. Obviously, he’ll continue to work on speed and those kinds of things, but [I] really like what he’s done and look forward to working with him.”
Certainly, Robinson isn’t the fastest back in the league currently. Oftentimes during the season after breaking a few tackles or making a man miss at the line of scrimmage, Robinson would clear out into the open field only to be caught from behind.
But what he lacked in the speed department, he made up for in all other aspects of the position which is something to be thankful for if you’re the Jaguars moving forward. This may be an offense ran on Meyer’s vision, but Bevell will still be the one calling plays, and he understands the importance of the position.
“The running back position is huge,” Bevell said. ”It does a lot of things. In my mind, it sets up a lot that you can do in the play action game, in the movement game.”
Setting up the play-action game and the movement game, two focal points of Meyer’s past offenses, will be incredibly important. Having a running back with the skill set of Robinson, opening things up for Lawrence, or whomever the quarterback is next season will allow the offense to click sooner rather than later.
The quarterback position will always be the focal point, having a back such as Robinson ought to take the pressure off, allowing him to remain a key part of a growing offense.
While not coaching in 2020, Meyer was still able to opine on the Ohio State Buckeyes and its running back situation. For years, the Buckeyes had workhorse backs such as Carlos Hyde, Zeke Elliott, and (most recently) J.K. Dobbins. And now, without a clear No. 1, at least to begin the season, Ohio State found themselves in a bit of a quandary.
“Yeah, we’ve been fortunate,” Meyer said last year on the Big Ten Network. “It went from Carlos Hyde to Zeke Elliott to J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. We always had that for us and you need one, and who that’s going to be?”
“They really like Trey Sermon and they really like Master Teague. The question is can they be the workhorse that J.K. Dobbins was or going all the way back to Carlos Hyde or Zeke Elliott? Can they handle that 15-to-25 carries per game? Because if not, you put too much pressure on (junior quarterback) Justin Fields.”
That last part of Meyer’s statement rings true for the Jaguars this year. How much pressure can they take off of its rookie quarterback and the importance of doing just that.
Fortunately, they’ve got a guy in Robinson to do just that, and he simply shouldn’t be overlooked.