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Coaches Corner: "I'm excited about my room…"

Jacksonville Jaguars running backs coach Terry Robiskie, center, talks with running backs Ryquell Armstead (30) and Leonard Fournette (27) during an NFL football practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Jacksonville Jaguars running backs coach Terry Robiskie, center, talks with running backs Ryquell Armstead (30) and Leonard Fournette (27) during an NFL football practice, Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

JACKSONVILLE – Terry Robiskie is quick to acknowledge there are unknowns.

But while that's a leaguewide truth in an NFL offseason defined by COVID-19, the Jaguars' veteran running backs coach said there's a bigger truth about something he does know.

"I like my room," Robiskie said.

Robiskie, who spoke to recently about the team's running backs position, said that outweighs all else when it comes to his feelings about a group that includes – but is far from limited to – two-time 1,000-yard rusher Leonard Fournette.

"I'm excited about my room," Robiskie said. "We're starting off with three guys we had last year. I have a good feel for those three. I have a good feel for their heart. I have a feel for who they are. I have a feel for their heart and their level of competition."

Robiskie said that doesn't mean the season – or preparing for it – will be simple. He has coached in the NFL 38 seasons and said COVID-19 made this offseason difficult and unique. Also making it tricky: navigating a virtual offseason while learning a new offense, one brought to Jacksonville in January by former Washington Redskins Head Coach and new Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

"We have to find a way to all come together and get on the same page," he said. "The biggest thing is patience. We won't be able to rush through things. We're going through a whole new system."

Robiskie called Gruden's offense running-back friendly, which he said is evidenced by the production of running back Adrian Peterson in recent seasons under Gruden in Washington. Chris Thompson also flourished with the Redskins in recent seasons as a third-down back, a role he will play with the Jaguars after signing this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

"Watching AP and Chris, it looks running-back friendly," Robiskie said. "Those two guys have done well playing together in that offense."

Robiskie said Fournette – the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2017 and 2019 – should have no issues producing in the scheme.

"When you feel like you've got a guy who's a good football player, you just put him in the offense – you put him in position – and he's going to succeed," Robiskie said. "Take a guy like Kevin Durant … I don't care where you put him: He's going to make a three-pointer. He [Fournette] is a good football player. He can play. He'll do things to help us win and keep us going this year.

"He'll fit in well. The offense or a new playbook, I don't think that bothers him. He feels like he can play in any offense. 'Put me in and let me go. I can get it done.' He's real confident in that."

Robiskie added of Fournette, "At the end of the day, Leonard's heart beats a lot faster in all phases mentally and physically when there's competition. He meets the challenge. He's got that heart to just compete in everything he's doing.

"When the whistle blows and it's time to go, he's going to go. When they say it's time to compete, if it's, 'Let's go win a championship …' Leonard's going to be there."

Robiskie also discussed other veterans in the group:

*On Thompson, who is expected to play a key role in passing situations: "He's been phenomenal. He's been fantastic. Chris has been in that offense for seven years. He's been very, very helpful to us."

*On Ryquell Armstead, who rushed for 108 yards on 35 carries as a rookie last season: "He brings joy to the room. He's not afraid of anybody. He's not afraid of competition. He's not afraid of a challenge. He's a joy to have in the room."

*On Devine Ozigbo, who played 10 games for the Jaguars as a rookie last season – mostly on special teams: "He has some talent. He has a chance to be a hell of a running back in the National Football League. He knows how to compete. He knows what it takes to win."

The Jaguars also signed three free-agent rookies following the 2020 NFL Draft – Nathan Cottrell, Tavien Feaster and James Robinson – a group that Robiskie called "phenomenal. They're all bright eyed and they all want a chance. They all want to compete."

"Sitting here today, I don't think I've got a guy that I would be afraid to put in a game tomorrow," Robiskie said. "It's real early and we have a ways to go, but sitting here today – in talking to them and listening to them and communicating with them – these guys have been very good. I'm happy about the fact that I've got a room that if we played the game tomorrow, I wouldn't be afraid to put them in."

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