JACKSONVILLE – Running back James Robinson won't have the element of surprise this summer.
Robinson last season made the roster in a training camp without a preseason game, convincing Jaguars decision-makers to release Leonard Fournette. Robinson was a sensation, running for more than a thousand yards without a consistent passing attack to help keep defenses from keying on him.
This time around it's different.
Robinson comes to Jaguars 2021 Training Camp a proven commodity, though to hear him speak you wouldn't know it. Maybe it's the presence of first-round selection Travis Etienne Jr. – or the addition of free-agent Carlos Hyde, who was one of Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer's guys at Ohio State.
Or maybe it's because that's just who he is and how he rolls.
"I always think about being competitive," said Robinson, who averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2020 and scored 10 total touchdowns. "But, when I'm out here, I know I am always being watched and I always think I can lose my job. I can get cut. I can have any of that stuff happen, so I don't think about what I did last year. I come out here and do what I have to do every play."
The history of professional football is replete with guys who did it once but couldn't keep it going. Anyone remember Peyton Hillis or Timmy Smith? Robinson's approach to his job – as much as his powerful physique or quick feet – will give him good odds to match his rookie season.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell believes in the second-year back and didn't even attempt to hide his admiration.
"The guy was undrafted and to watch what he was able to do last year was a huge accomplishment for him," Bevell said. "He's kind of a quiet guy, so it has been fun to get to know him – but a very physical guy. We love what he can do with the ball in his hands and obviously he's going to get his fair share of doing that."
Free safety Rayshawn Jenkins has been around the block a time or two in professional football. The five-year veteran signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason after beginning his career with the Chargers, where he played with some of the AFC's best defensive talent. It's a different situation with the Jaguars, where defensive coordinator Joe Cullen is putting together a unit from the pieces assembled in the spring. "We are really competitive," Jenkins said. "That's one thing I see out of this group of guys and me being where I was before (Los Angeles). I played on some top-five defenses and it feels similar."
The Chargers defenses for which Jenkins played were buoyed by one of the most powerful pass rushes in the NFL thanks to Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Jaguars edge defenders Josh Allen and K'Lavon Chaisson are first-round selections but haven't reached that level of performance yet. Once again, Jenkins offered a positive outlook. "Coach went into the draft and into free agency to rebuild that defensive line," he said. "I feel like that is going to be one of our strong points this season and like we always say: Rush and cover work together and when we get those guys going we'll have a great season on the back end as well."
The safety competition is one we will pay attention to in August. Many assume Jenkins will be one of the starters, but even he did not have an answer on who would start Week 1. "Anytime you step on this field, it's a competition," he said. "The free safety and the strong safety will be a competition during camp." Jenkins, Daniel Thomas, Jarrod Wilson and Andre Cisco coming back from an injury … the Jaguars have some options at safety, which is a great problem to have.