JACKSONVILLE – The awards are within reach, and they're deserved.
James Robinson has earned the chance to be the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year. That's what the statistics say, and those same statistics say the Jaguars' rookie running back deserves Pro Bowl consideration.
But while Robinson said Thursday the awards would matter, he also knows something else.
"It's nothing I can control, so we'll see if it happens," Robinson said.
Robinson has rushed for 106 yards per game the last five games. He enters Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis needing 110 yards to become the fourth undrafted player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards as a rookie.
Robinson not only has been productive, but he has also been remarkably reliable – starting all 11 games and accounting for 91 percent of the team's carries from the running-back position.
"He has done great," Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said Wednesday. "We really lean on him quite a bit. He has helped us out on the play-action game. Without that threat of a running game, we're dropping back and throwing a lot and we have zero chance.
"James is quite pivotal in our offense as far as being able to keep defenses honest – and in the production he has in the running and passing game."
Robinson's performance through 11 games has him rightfully in discussions for postseason awards, and it also has him in historic company. If he averages 43 yards per game over the last five games, he will break the NFL rookie record for rushing yards by an undrafted player of 1,104 – set by Dominic Rhodes of the Indianapolis Colts in 2001.
"It would mean a lot," Robinson said of potentially reaching 1,000 yards. "Every back wants to get over the 1,000-yard mark and it's a goal for me, but without the linemen or anything I don't think I'd be close to that."
Robinson added, "Coming in, I didn't think about any of that. The biggest thing for me was to get on the field and just show what I can do and that I can play. I knew what I could do, and it was just getting an opportunity to do that."
Gruden said rookie wide receiver Collin Johnson has earned more opportunity, with those chances perhaps depending on the health of veterans DJ Chark Jr. and Chris Conley. A fifth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Johnson caught four passes for 96 yards and a 46-yard touchdown in his first NFL start Sunday against Cleveland. Johnson started opposite rookie Laviska Shenault Jr. with Chark out with a rib injury and Conley out with a hip injury. "He definitely stepped up his game, which is great to see," Gruden said. "We've been trying to get him on the field a little bit more, but with DJ and Chris it's been hard to get him out there and get him the reps. To see him step up in those guys' absence is great to see. We won't hesitate to get him there if it plays out like that." Gruden said Johnson has a natural feel for the game and good straight-line speed, and that he has been working "diligently" this season on route-running fundamentals such as getting in and out breaks. "We love his skillset and as a young football player you can see what type of career he may have if he continues to work," Gruden said.
Robinson on the Jaguars' objective over the season's final five games: "Go get a win. Not just a win, but if we can win the rest … do that and I think that's the biggest thing because losing these close games sucks. We have to have that winning mindset, and I think that's what we have and there's just some weird hump that we can't get over. We're going into this game trying to get a W."
Gruden on how comfortable he would be playing Laviska Shenault Jr. in a similar situation to the quarterback-less Denver Broncos in a 31-3 loss to New Orleans this past Sunday: "Not very. Not very at all. We would probably get beat like Denver did. I think they scored three points, which is quite amazing. I think they should all get a plaque in the Hall of Fame for scoring three points without a quarterback. It's no fun. There's nothing we could really do except direct snap it and run between the tackles … or some zone reads. Not a lot of options there."