The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't been known as a creative offensive team the last few years, but they took the first step to becoming one when they selected Michigan's Denard Robinson in April's NFL draft.
Robinson, who was selected in the fifth round, was known as one of college football's most dynamic athletes during his four-year stay in Ann Arbor. He made big plays and now the Jaguars are hoping to put him in position to do the same for them. To do that, the team has moved him to running back, although he's expected to be used at wide receiver as well, according to NFL.com.
The running back position is one that fits Robinson's talent very well. He's very fast, as indicated by his 4.34 40-yard dash, and has uncanny vision and patience when the ball is in his hands. That's not frequently seen from a player that's spent years playing quarterback, which is why his talent has captured the attention of the football nation.
He has the ability to set up blocks with his patience, and the instincts and vision to find cutback lanes at the second level. Not to mention, he can make defenders miss because of his lateral quickness.
One of the plays that's long stuck out in my mind is a 58-yard touchdown run against Air Force. It was one that ESPN flashed across the screen while another game was being played during the second week of the college football season, and ever since then, it's been ingrained in my memory.
Robinson was in shotgun set with a running back lined up to his left against Air Force's 3-3-5 defense. When the play began, the offense's right guard raised his head, opened his up and pulled across the formation. He was Robinson's lead blocker on the play, a G-power play call.
As the guard came across the formation, Robinson caught the snap, stood straight up and took a couple of steps forward.
He then cut to his left, where he patiently waited for his blocker to latch on to the near defender. This is where Robinson showed instincts; instead of continuing to run outside, he slowed down, planted his outside foot into the ground to draw and pivoted back inside.
The defender was then demolished by the blocker and Robinson set his sights on the middle of the field.
In the middle was where he was set to do the most damage. With the Air Force defense all running the opposite way, Robinson made one defender miss and then burst across his school's logo at midfield.
He covered ground in a hurry and was suddenly in the open field. He had one defender to beat, but that was made easy with one blocker to lead the way. The only player to eventually touch him was a teammate, with whom he celebrated his touchdown.
Here's another example of his instincts and vision, this time against Illinois.
Robinson's lined up at quarterback and to his left is a running back. From his right runs a wide receiver, who is coming across across the formation in jet motion. Robinson fakes the handoff to the receiver and keeps the ball to himself, running right at the the teeth of the defense. His lead blocker is the running back, who erases the middle linebacker coming downhill.
Now two yards past the line of scrimmage, he's met by a defender, who he eludes with a jump-cut to his right.
As a safety comes down into the box and plugs the alley, Robinson is forced to rely on his instincts and vision to pick up more yards. He stops and looks to his left, where he will cross field as he makes yet another defender miss.
Finally, he bursts past the defense, runs into the open field and scores another long touchdown.
Robinson is obviously an impressive prospect at the running back position, which is why the Jaguars should look to use him there frequently. But it's been noted that they also threw passes to him when he was lined up at wide receiver (via Yahoo!).
He's far less appealing as a wide receiver than he is as a running back. He's not as natural at it. When he practiced at the position at the Senior Bowl, he was too slow out of his breaks, taking far too many steps to break down, and struggled overall.
In the video to the right, some of Robinson's issues at the Senior Bowl practices are clear.
At the 49-second mark, for instance, shows him running a deep out route that he doesn't flatten out enough at the break. He also struggles to keep his balance at the end of his route.
At the 55-second mark, he struggles to run a deep comeback route. He takes too long to break down the route and then raises his body up once he's completed it. He needs to keep his pads down and attack the football once he's reached the top of his route.
The Jaguars coaches are well aware of how raw Robinson is and will likely feature him on simpler routes that get the ball in his hands and let him run free. Bubble screens, slants, go-routes and quick outs are all examples of the types of passes they will likely throw to him.
Anything more than those simple routes could be too much to handle for Robinson as he transitions to the pros. And, frankly, anything more than that might be defeating the point of drafting Robinson: Creatively using him to generate explosive plays that the offense desperately needs.
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