JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from Wednesday's Jaguars.com LIVE with Jaguars running back Denard Robinson
1.Robinson has the look and sound of a veteran. What a difference two years makes. Denard Robinson arrived in Jacksonville in 2013 a much-scrutinized rookie struggling to fulfill a role as an "offensive weapon." One issue was nerve damage in his right hand sustained in his final season at the University of Michigan. Another was transitioning from college quarterback to NFL running back/wide receiver/returner. Robinson, who moved to running back full time last season, could play an expanded role this season as a back, receiver and perhaps returner. He had the look and sound of a much more confident player when he appeared on Jaguars.com LIVE with John Oehser and J.P. Shadrick Wednesday. "It's like night and day," Robinson said with a smile. "It was tough. In my rookie year, my head was spinning. I didn't know what position I was playing and I couldn't catch the ball the way I wanted to because of my hand. I never used it as an excuse, because I feel like if I'm out there I shouldn't have an excuse, but now two years later I feel more confident than I ever felt before at running back."
2.Robinson is ready to compete.Robinson started nine games at running back last season, and to listen to him Wednesday, he's not ready to give up that role just yet. Despite the Jaguars selecting T.J. Yeldon from Alabama in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft – and despite a deep running back room that includes veterans Toby Gerhart and Bernard Pierce and 2014 seventh-round selection Storm Johnson – Robinson said his first objective in training camp is to earn the starting position. "I see myself being a playmaker," Robinson said. "But first I have to start out and play the running back position. I want to be the best running back I can possibly be. I have to have the mindset that I want to be the starter, and that's the mindset I'm going in with. Anybody in that running back room is going to feel like they should be the starter, and if you don't, I don't think you should be in the NFL."
3.Robinson's confidence is high. Robinson never has lacked for confidence, exactly. But if he entered last year's camp wondering if he could play at a high level at running back, he's not uncertain about that anymore. Robinson's nine starts last season featured a midseason stretch in which he rushed for 389 yards and four touchdowns just before a Week 11 bye week. He finished the season with 582 yards rushing and four touchdowns. "We had a lot of success running the ball, and I had a lot of success running the ball in those three weeks," Robinson said. "I just have to focus on doing that in camp week-in and week-out. I just have to focus on doing that in camp and being the best I can be in camp." Robinson worked as a kickoff returner in the offseason and said he felt good in the role.
4.Robinson is still big.The storylines around Robinson last offseason centered around his continued recovery from nerve damage in his right arm and his effort to gain/maintain weight. The nerve damage has long since healed enough that the ball security problems that plagued him as a rookie are no longer an issue, and Robinson said he has maintained his 2014 playing weight of about 212 pounds. "I wanted to get a little stronger than I was last year and I always want to get a little better," Robinson said. "I took some steps in the right direction. It's tough to keep the weight on, but I kept it on and I'm going to carry it pretty well."
5.The running back position is deep – very, very deep.Robinson absolutely hasn't given up on the idea of starting. He also absolutely believes the competition that will make earning a starting job difficult will make for a very good, deep position group. "This group is one of the toughest groups I've been with," he said. "All of these guys can play. When you look to your left and right, these guys can do some of the things you can do – and maybe a little better. It's going to be a tough group. You walk in the room and know there's going to be competition. At the end of the day, you have to look in the mirror and say, 'I'm my own competition.' Any of us could be the starting running back and be an every-down back. It's going to be a fun year this year."