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View from the O-Zone: Robinson has the right look


JACKSONVILLE – It's early March, and already Allen Robinson is working.

Not on the field. Not yet. But while rehabilitating a foot injury that cost him the last six weeks of his rookie season, the Jaguars' wide receiver has spent time in the film room. A lot of time.

He has watched himself, and others. As he does his excitement builds.

So, yes, Robinson is working in the early months of this offseason.

And as he does, he is smiling, too.

"I consider myself a gym rat," Robinson, a second-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, said Tuesday morning. "Breaking down these receivers and how they do stuff, seeing how I can improve my game … that's the fun part for me."

You want to know why that whole thing about NFL players improving the most from rookie year to second year is such a cliché?

Because it happens, and it's a real thing. It's a real important thing. The reason it happens is players grow up, and mature, and sometime between Year One and Year Two they start to figure it out.

Talking on Tuesday, Robinson had the look of such a player.

He's not running routes yet. He said that should start in a few weeks, and he said he hopes to be participating in the Jaguars' offseason program come late April.

But while that's important, what he's learning is, too. He learned during a rookie season in which he caught 48 passes for 548 yards and two touchdowns that he has NFL ability, improving steadily before a stress fracture ended his season in early November.

He's learning from re-watching himself on film he indeed is good enough to be really good.

But he's also learning there's more he can do, more he must do. Dez Bryant. Odell Beckham, Jr. Antonio Brown. Jordy Nelson. A.J. Green. They're receivers of different sizes, and different styles, but Robinson said he's watching them all, "just seeing what those guys bring to the table, and how they make big plays."

What he's learning – what film is very much driving home – is that NFL success is about details. It isn't just physical ability. It's also learning to squeeze every ounce from that ability.

"It's hard to do something if you've never seen it before, if you're just trying to wing it," Robinson said. "As you start to see things guys do and work on it, when that situation presents itself to you, you have that tool and you can practice it to use it to benefit you.

"I'm still trying to find my way, and by trying to improve on different things, I can find my niche and become a game-changer.

Part of the process, too, is seeing what you do well. Robinson said he liked what he did on third downs last season, but he also wants to be more of a downfield threat. He said he is intrigued by how some receivers position their bodies, speaking of the difference between one-foot and two-foot jumpers. (Translation: some receivers jump for the ball off two feet; others can jump off one foot and save time).

Robinson spoke often on Tuesday of Bryant, the Cowboys' wide receiver who has emerged over the last several seasons as perhaps the league's top playmaker at the position. Part of playing the positon is God-given ability, and Robinson said that's part of what makes Bryant good. But there's more.

"It's things people might think are smaller things, but they're actually a big part of coming down with some catches," Robinson said. "When you see Dez Bryant come down with some of these 50-50 balls, he really puts himself between the ball and the defender. A part is body positioning and how you shield the defender away for you to make the catch.

"Once you watch a lot of that, you can get it involved in your game and adapt it into yours."

When Robinson talks about Bryant, and watching film in general, he's animated. He calls it fun, and it's not just his words. It's in his eyes, too. He's a young player with ability, and he's confident in that ability. More importantly, he sees the path where he wants that ability to lead.

That's not the whole process, of course. There's a difference between knowing what it takes to be elite and being elite. But knowing what it takes and working for it is an important first step.

It's one that fascinates Robinson, which is nothing if not a good sign.

"That's what's fun for me," he said. "You see guys like Dez Bryant evolve from this rookie year to now. These guys have a great amount of talent, but how did they evolve? How did they go about making these plays? A big thing is the know-how and seeing it. If you never see those things, how are you going to go out there and do it?

"When you know you have the skill set to make these things happen, now you have to go out and do it."

Doing it doesn't come automatically. It comes with work, on the field and off.

It comes during the offseason, and it's why even though it's just early March, already Allen Robinson is working.

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