Fifteen consecutive losses ended the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2020 season and inevitably led them to Trevor Lawrence.
It made for a dearth of highlights in a rather calamitous campaign, though.
There was, however, a diamond that emerged from the rough going in the form of undrafted free-agent running back James Robinson.
Therefore, it was a bit puzzling when Jacksonville signed free-agent journeyman Carlos Hyde and flat-out perplexing when the Jaguars and new head coach Urban Meyer followed their selection of Lawrence at No. 1 overall by picking Clemson running back Travis Etienne later in the opening round at No. 25.
With the running back room suddenly crowded around him, Robinson is taking it all in stride.
“It’s really just I have to go out there and control what I can control and once I get my opportunity, just make the most of it,” Robinson said Thursday, via team transcript.
Making the selection of Etienne all the more bewildering — and the Hyde signing to a lesser extent — is that Robinson proved he could be a workhorse and was also a natural in the passing game (he had 49 catches). But by his accord, it would seem a committee approach is on the agenda.
“I think it’ll mesh very well,” Robinson said. “We’ve all just been trying to learn the offense right now, but as we get into training camp, we’ll see. I’m sure it will work out well.”
While it’s been a surprising turn of roster for the Jaguars, perhaps more so it’s a bit frustrating. Everyone loves the underdog story and Robinson was the epitome of a feel-good underdog tale. Despite being undrafted and playing for a team that finished dead last in all the NFL land, Robinson excelled only for his club to use a first-round pick on a running back.
An unknown from Illinois State, Robinson earned the starting spot in the Jaguars backfield and ran with it, all the way to a 1,000-yard season and a sterling rookie showing. So, for a Jaguars roster with needs at a plethora of positions and buoyed by an instant talent at tailback, bringing in Etienne, in particular, was stunning.
Unsurprisingly, Robinson is saying all the right things about his new backfield mates.
“It’s great,” Robinson said of his relationship with Etienne. “He asks questions all the time. He’s a good guy to talk to. It’s great. Him and Trevor [Lawrence] coming in, it’s great.”
And he believes Hyde’s experience is an asset, as well.
“I would say it’s kind of like the relationship I had with [former Jaguars RB] Chris Thompson last year,” Robinson said. “It’s an older guy that’s been in the league for a while and [I’m] just learning new things about the league and knowing how to take care of yourself and knowing when to go and when to tone things down. So, he’s great, given me a lot of pointers.”
Meyer has previously stated he wants to build an RB room with Robinson being an “integral” part. That hardly clears up any confusion, though, considering Robinson was a spectacular solo act previously and the Jaguars’ needs were so expansive this offseason.
Looking back, Robinson’s first season in the NFL was truly impressive. A UDFA who became RB1 after Leonard Fournette was released, Robinson’s 1,070 yards were fifth in the NFL and second among rookies following the Colts’ Jonathan Taylor. His four 100-yard rushing outings were tops among rookies and tied for fourth in the NFL. Those were among the seven games he had with 100-plus scrimmage yards, which tied Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson for the most among 2020 rookies, per NFL Research.
While the aforementioned roster choices would seem to lean to the opposite, Meyer proclaims to be a huge fan of the 5-foot-10, 220-pound rusher.
“James Robinson is one of my favorite guys,” the rookie NFL coach said. “I can’t name a harder worker right now on our team, and that started in January all the way through June now. So, I love that guy.”
How that love will translate to carries, catches and playing time is one of a number of quandaries as a new dawn is upon Duval.
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