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Friday Update: Low-key, quiet Robinson ready for NFL debut

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JACKSONVILLE – James Robinson smiled at the question.

The question was about personality, and the Jaguars' newest high-profile player has heard enough about it in recent days to know it was coming – and to be ready with an answer.

"I'm a very quiet guy," he said, laughing. "Everyone says that around here."

But how quiet is the Jaguars' new starting running back? Just how low-key?

That has been a big topic around the Jaguars this week, with media scrambling to learn something – anything – about the rookie free agent who will make his first NFL start in his first NFL game of any kind against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2020 regular-season opener at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden talked about it Wednesday …

"He's a no-nonsense guy, he really is," 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."

… and defensive end Josh Allen talked about it the following day.

"I think I heard him talk today for the first time," Allen said. "He was on the phone and I was walking past him. I said, 'So, that's what his voice sounds like.' I know he smiles a lot."

Which is about the biggest reaction Allen says he gets when trash-talking the rookie in practice.

"I try to talk crap to him out there," Allen said with a smile. "He just smiles and laughs. I can't wait to see him play. He's done a lot of good stuff this training camp."

Robinson is a major story around the Jaguars this week for a couple of reasons. One is that he will start Sunday, having replaced Leonard Fournette after the Jaguars waived the two-time 1,000-yard rusher early last week. Another is that he will make that start less than five months after going undrafted out of FCS Illinois State.

Robinson, who rushed for 4,444 yards and 44 touchdowns in college, attended the NFL Scouting Combine and was widely projected as a late-round selection. He signed with the Jaguars as a free agent shortly after the 2020 NFL Draft after receiving calls from the Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers.

"At that point, I was just looking to get on the field somewhere," he said.

He said he took the same approach upon arriving for training camp, where teammates said he stood out immediately. Running back Chris Thompson early in camp lauded Robinson's vision as perhaps the best of any of the team's backs, and Allen on Thursday also praised that part of the rookie's game.

Robinson on Friday called that vision his best attribute along with the ability to make the first defender miss and acceleration through the hole. Gruden on Thursday praised Robinson's ability as a receiver and in blitz pickup – two elements key for a running back transitioning from college to the NFL.

"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."

Head Coach Doug Marrone agreed, and spoke Friday of watching all of Robinson's collegiate carries during training camp. This was after being initially impressed with the rookie early in non-contact work and then being equally impressed in padded practices. Marrone said he saw a player he increasingly believed ready for the starting role he will play Sunday.

"James is all football," he said. "He really picked things up quickly and really had a good feel. … All I kept saying was, 'I've watched everything. There's nothing that's showing us he's not going to be [ready].' That's why I feel comfortable about where he is."

As for Robinson, he is equally confident. Asked Friday if he was ready for Sunday, he replied: "Yeah, of course." He also answered characteristically when asked if the work he had put in to achieve a childhood dream at last had paid off.

"I would say it hasn't paid off just yet," he 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."

Also on Friday:

*The Jaguars ruled rookie tight end Tyler Davis out for Sunday's game with a knee injury after he missed practice this week. All other players were removed from the game status report and are expected to be available Sunday. …

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