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View from the O-Zone: Future is now at left tackle


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JACKSONVILLE – Nothing changed for Cam Robinson Monday.

That's true in one sense, but it's more true that pretty much everything has changed for the Jaguars rookie who began Monday one thing and finished it something else.

Robinson is now the Jaguars' left tackle.

That means the future at the position is now.

That's not official, but it would be surprising if it worked out differently after veteran Branden Albert's surprising retirement early Monday on Day 4 of Jaguars 2017 Training Camp.

This is big news, and a mammoth Jaguars 2017 Training Camp storyline. It's a big responsibility for the big man the Jaguars drafted No. 34 overall last April.

And Robinson sounded very capable of handling it when talking about it Monday.

"I just wanted to come in and be a sponge and soak everything up as fast as I could regardless of who was here and who wasn't," Robinson said. "I don't think it will change my preparation any."

As for his first padded NFL work the past few days?

"It's actually been fun," Robinson said. "I like the physical part of the game, so it's been fun – go out there and hit a little bit and just get back to football."

Those last couple of quotes sum up not only Robinson's press conference Monday after learning of Albert's retirement, but pretty much any time he has met with the media since the team selected him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

He seems very comfortable with the NFL, and very confident in his ability.

Images from the fourth day of #JAXCamp17.

And in terms of approach, demeanor and attitude he seems like a guy as ready as possible for a critical role. We're not talking about cockiness, or overconfidence; rather, we're talking about a player who doesn't seem remotely nervous about the prospect of starting in the NFL as a rookie.

He seemed that way Monday, and seemed that way throughout the team's offseason program. Neither during the offseason did he ever seem particularly stressed about Albert missing the voluntary portion of the offseason program while trying to negotiate a new contract.

He also never much seemed to buy into talk around him that he might move to guard during the regular season, something many observers – this one included – offered as a possibility if Albert as many expected eventually won the left tackle position.

The idea of Albert starting at left tackle ended Monday.

That doesn't mean Robinson automatically is officially the starter. Head Coach Doug Marrone doesn't want that because Marrone wants rookies – even highly drafted ones – to earn starting roles. That's why Chris Ivory is working with the first team over Leonard Fournette at running back, and it's why Josh Wells worked with the first team at left tackle Monday. Marrone on Monday, too, mentioned the possibility of guard Patrick Omameh at left tackle. Or a veteran acquisition.

"I don't want to hand a position to somebody," Marrone said. "They have to earn it on this team … I know in my mind, I want to make sure that Cam goes out there and earns that position."

Robinson on Monday sounded fine with that – and he sounded fine with Marrone's approach overall. Marrone upon the Jaguars drafting Robinson told Marrone he was going to coach him hard, and Robinson – who played for Nick Saban at the University of Alabama – had said he liked hard coaching.

Robinson was asked Monday if Marrone had followed up on that promise.

"He wasn't lying," Robinson said. "He held up that part of the bargain."

Robinson laughed when he said it, and it sounded like a heartfelt laugh. Listening to Robinson, you get the idea he has no problem with a coach yelling, and no problem with competing for the position he seems so certain to earn.

It's impossible to know after four training camp practices if Robinson can be a front-line NFL left tackle, but you get a sense listening to him he is mature beyond his years, and that not a lot of off-field stuff – or even on-field pressure – will bother him. That's not surprising for a guy who started as a true freshman at the University of Alabama, and it's a trait that should serve him well in his current circumstance.

You also got the idea that Robinson meant it when he said Monday that the speed thus far of the NFL hasn't been overwhelming.

"I played at a pretty good college program," Robinson said. "It really hasn't been too devastating for me."

The game undoubtedly will get faster for Robinson. That happens in the preseason, and again in the regular season. Still, for now Robinson has the feel of a guy who can handle what's coming.

It's important for the Jaguars that will be the case.

Because at the all-important left-tackle position, the team's future indeed is suddenly now.

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