Look no further than the Chargers’ Austin Ekeler or the Broncos’ Philip Lindsay as undrafted free agents who’ve run to NFL success.
Might the Jaguars’ James Robinson be the next?
Ever since Leonard Fournette was released by Jacksonville, quandaries abounded as to who would take on the lead role in the Jags backfield upon the former No. 4 overall pick’s leave.
Though it remains to be seen how the workload is shared, Robinson has the starting role under his arm and is looking for daylight to prove he’s the top back to stay. He won’t be celebrating his new-found status loudly, though. Robinson isn’t a flashy runner nor a big talker.
“I’m a very quiet guy,” he said, via the team website. “Everyone says that around here.”
Still, replacing a 1,000-yard rusher in the starting lineup is reason for at least some excitement, even if Robinson won’t admit it.
“He’s a no-nonsense guy, he really is,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “I try to get under his skin a little bit. I ask him if he’s nervous every day. He’s a very poised individual, no nonsense. He’s ready to go.
“I know he’s excited. He won’t show it though. I haven’t seen him smile but twice the whole time he’s been here. He’s a very focused guy and I think he’ll be ready.”
He’ll need to be ready against a formidable Colts defense on Sunday in the season opener.
Robinson isn’t a burner, but he’s a tough back with good vision and burst who could shine in short yardage and be a workhorse if things fall into place.
“We’ll see how he does, but we have every indication that we’ve seen in training camp that he can handle it,” Gruden said. “He can handle the workload. He’s tough. He’s strong. He’s got great vision. He can explode through holes. We’ve been impressed with him.”
Few are predicting great success for the Jaguars this season. It’s apparent they’re rebuilding. But a rebuild most successfully starts with young talent. One of the prevailing questions this season for Jacksonville is if Gardner Minshew, a sixth-round draft pick, can take the franchise QB reins. Another quandary might well be can Robinson, an undrafted free agent, be the ball carrier of the future in Duval?
An all-time great for Illinois State, Robinson ran wild across four years there, accumulating 4,444 rushing yards, 46 total touchdowns and 5,218 all-purpose yards, which are each second in school history.
Robinson drew further notice when he tallied 136 total yards in the East-West Shine Bowl, including a 63-yard touchdown run that’s the longest in the game’s history.
Now he’s arrived at not just his NFL debut, but his first game will likewise be his first start.
There’s no accomplishment prior to kickoff for the rookie, though.
“I would say [the hard work] hasn’t paid off just yet,” Robinson said. “I still have to play. It means a lot for me and my family. I’m in position to try to take care of them. It’s a long season and I still have to continue to work hard and just go out and help my team.”
There’s a new No. 1 in the Jaguars backfield and it’s time to see what he can do.
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