Knee issues behind Jaguars RB James Robinson’s diminished role

Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (25) at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville Knight Campus
Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (25) at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville Knight Campus /

The Jacksonville Jaguars are doing a good job of feeding running back Travis Etienne, and why wouldn’t they? He’s a threat to break off a big run every time he gets the ball. But while Etienne’s seeing an uptick in playing time, James Robinson has become an afterthought in recent weeks, why? Head coach Doug Pederson shed light on the reason behind his limited role when he met with the local media Monday.

“He has been dealing with some lower body issues, or I should say, most in his knees now”, Pederson said. “But listen, he’s a big part of what we’re doing. We know Travis is playing well right now too, and it doesn’t take anything away from James”.

“It just so happens that in certain situations, Travis is getting the ball. But as we move forward, we’re always going to continue to get James in the mix, and he’s a big part of what we’re doing”, Pederson said.

Robinson only got 12 total offensive snaps in Jacksonville’s loss to the New York Giants in Week 7, which rose several questions. Maybe the Jaguars’ front office was trying to trade the former Illinois State Redbird with Etienne becoming the No. 1 running back on the depth chart. It’s possible that Robinson was dealing with an injury but if that was the case, why wasn’t Pederson upfront about it? Sure, there is some competitive advantage in withholding information from opponents but if Robinson is indeed hurt, why not list him in the Injury Report?

The fact that Pederson was vague about Robinson’s status following the loss to the Giants made things even more confusing, especially when you take into account that the running back has been productive when he’s gotten the ball. This season, he’s toted the rock 81 times for 340 yards with three touchdowns and an average of 4.2 yards per carry, so production was certainly NOT the reason he was phased out in favor of Etienne.

Is James Robinson part of the Jaguars’ long-term future?

If Robinson is indeed having knee issues, he should get playing time once they subside. Having said that, it’s hard to see him getting a big workload, at least this season, as long as Etienne keeps being productive or barring injury. Sure, the sophomore running back had that costly fumble near the Giants’ goal line but he’s made up for it more than several times with big plays.

An undrafted free agent in 2020, Robinson will be a restricted free agent next year, and tendering him wouldn’t be cost-prohibitive but what about 2024? After all, he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent that year, and he will rightfully want to be paid, so it might be a good idea to get ahead of the curve and sign him as soon as possible.

The Jags might be working with a limited workload next offseason, so it might be difficult to bring back several players such as wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., defensive end Arden Key, right tackle Jawaan Taylor, and tight end Evan Engram.

While it’s not realistic to re-sign all of them, the team’s brass will most likely make an aggressive effort to bring some of them. Nevertheless, they must also prioritize giving James Robinson a new contract. While he’s not elite, he’s an important part of their offensive puzzle and one of their best players since joining the team.

One of the reasons the Jaguars haven’t been consistently good has been their inability to keep talent. That’s why getting Robinson involved on offense and eventually giving him a contract extension should be one of the team’s top priorities.

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