Denard Robinson was a major highlight for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014. For a few weeks during the season, Robinson was among the best running backs in the league.
After finishing atop the rushing attack for the Jaguars – despite starting below Toby Gerhart on the depth chart – it seemed that the starting running back role was his to lose. Robinson believed it and we were all behind the young quarterback-turned-running back becoming something special with the Jags.
In the back of our minds we all knew the Jags were looking at running backs in the 2015 NFL Draft, though. It was no surprise to see T.J. Yeldon drafted to be the feature back early in the second round. Now he’s expected to come in and be something special and Robinson suddenly finds himself shorts a significant number of carries. Questions remain for Yeldon, but in the end it is expected that he be successful in his role as the feature back.
So, where does that all leave Denard Robinson?
His time with the Jaguars just had a whole bunch of questions flare up. We’ll take a look at some of the pressing ones regarding the young running back.
Sep 28, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) looks to hand the ball off to wide receiver Denard Robinson (16) during warm-ups before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
1) How many carries will Denard Robinson get?
One of the more electrifying runners in 2014, Robinson has the ability to make a play special. When Robinson got touches, the Jaguars were far more competitive than when he was limited in his carries. He was able to find space behind the horrendous play of the offensive line and he was slippery enough to skate by defenders and find some open field.
Last year he only went above 15 carries per game four times in 13 total games. He went above 20 carries in just one game.
I said it last year and I think it is clear heading into 2015 that those simply aren’t enough carries for the ground game. There were other players getting touches then too, but it was clear the balance simply wasn’t there. Robinson was finding success when he got many touches because it helped balance the passing attack.
Now, with Yeldon expected to be ahead of him on the depth chart, does Robinson get 15+ carries per game? Probably not likely. What we’re going to be looking at is closer to 10 and under.
In games with 10 or less carries last season, Robinson had mixed success. Some games he averaged just over two yards per carry and in others he was over four yards per carry. In those games with 15 or more carries his average never dropped below four yards per carry and his high was six yards per carry.
To me, Robinson is a runner who gets better with more touches. He “warms up” into the game and he is successful because he learns to read the defense, move the ball against them, and get into a groove. Without the opportunities to get in a groove, I worry that he won’t be as effective.
I’m certain that the coaching staff has some similar notion or are finding other ways to up his yards per carry average. Finding a sweet spot between Robinson and Yeldon will go a long way to maximizing the effectiveness of both players and the ground game as a whole.
Next: Can Robinson successfully become a dynamic offensive weapon?