James Robinson

Jaguars RB James Robinson Set To Play In Week 1

The Jaguars faced plenty of injury-related uncertainty with respect to their running backs room this offseason, but there is positive news on that front. It appears the team will have each of their top two backfield options available to start the season. 

When speaking to reporters earlier this week, head coach Doug Pederson said, via Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper, that James Robinson will be in the lineup against the Commanders Week 1. That would represent a return to full health for the 24-year-old along the timeline Jacksonville envisioned.

Robinson suffered a torn Achilles in December, but has made steady progress while recovering this offseason. His return would be a welcomed sight, given his 2,400 scrimmage yards over the first two seasons of his career – a total no one foresaw given his status as a UDFA. That makes him eligible for an extension, though it is unlikely he will see one until after he is back on the field for a sustained period.

The other impediment to a deal for Robinson is, of course, his competition for snaps in the backfield. 2021 first-rounder Travis Etienne is also healthy, after missing his rookie campaign due to a Lisfranc injury. The former Clemson alum and Trevor Lawrence running mate projects as the Jaguars’ lead back and a notable component of the team’s passing game.

Robinson should still see a significant workload in a timeshare, but if Etienne lives up to his draft stock Robinson could understandably be deemed expendable. Jacksonville also drafted Snoop Conner this past April, providing depth in case of injury and a long-term cost-effective backup should Robinson head elsewhere. Much of his future will depend, though, on his 2022 performance, something which should indeed begin this Sunday.

Jags Eyeing Week 1 James Robinson Return

The Jaguars did not place James Robinson on their active/PUP list to start training camp, but coming off a late-December Achilles tear, the third-year running back’s early-season availability has been in question. Doug Pederson is envisioning Robinson being ready to go from the outset.

Robinson made his 2022 debut in team drills this week, per Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com. The UDFA success story will not play in Jacksonville’s second preseason game, but, in classifying Robinson as “almost there,” Pederson is anticipating a Week 1 re-emergence.

It’s the expectation; it’s kind of the hope that he can be there at that point,” Pederson said of Robinson’s potential Week 1 availability, via Pro Football Talk’s Myles Simmons. “And, listen, if not, it’s OK. We’re comfortable with the guys behind him and we’ll go with what we have.”

Jacksonville having Robinson in uniform in Week 1 would position the team to, at long last, trot out both its top backs in a game. The team played 2021 without first-round pick Travis Etienne. After the Clemson product missed his rookie year, he has not experienced any setbacks in a return from a Lisfranc injury. The Jags also chose Snoop Conner in the fifth round this year.

Cam Akers‘ late-season return last year showed how quickly running backs can surmount Achilles tears, though the Rams back was not exactly himself during his late-season cameo. It has been nearly eight months since Robinson went down. It will be interesting to see Robinson’s 2022 form and how Pederson uses he and Etienne. The former has been the Jaguars’ leading rusher in each of his two years, following up a UDFA rookie-record 1,414 scrimmage yards with a better YPC average (4.7) last season.

Because of his UDFA status, Robinson is already extension-eligible. But the Jaguars are on their third head coach of the Illinois State alum’s career. It would make sense for the team to determine how Robinson fits in Pederson’s offense and see how he looks post-Achilles before proceeding down that road. Robinson, 24, can be kept via ERFA and RFA tenders through 2023.

Injury Updates: Packers, Seahawks, Jaguars, Colts, Giants

Packers second-round wide receiver Christian Watson was placed on the PUP before training camp opened, and ESPN’s Rob Demovsky writes that the rookie could miss a chunk of training camp. Watson continues to recover from minor knee surgery that took place following minicamp.

“I think there was kind of a thought process [of] do you want to try to push through the season and finish this after the (2022) season or should we just go ahead and do it now?” said Packers GM Brian Gutekunst said. “And we just did it now. So he’ll miss a little bit of time in camp, but it’s nothing long term.

“When we invest what we invested in Christian, we’re obviously looking out for the long term. We always do. He’s a young player who’s got a big career ahead of him, so we want to make sure we protect that. It’ll be how he responds through the rehab. As soon as he’s ready, we’ll get him out there.”

The Packers used the No. 34 pick on the rookie wideout. This naturally led to high expectations for the wideout, especially with Davante Adams out of the picture. The rookie has had only three opportunities to practice with Aaron Rodgers, and the wideout will miss out on chances to click with his QB during the early parts of training camp.

More injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Seahawks safety Jamal Adams underwent left shoulder surgery for the second-straight year, but he also underwent multiple finger surgeries during the offseason. Adams will be sidelined for “some time” while he gets his previously-injured hand checked out, coach Pete Carroll told ESPN’s Brady Henderson (Twitter link). “Yesterday his hand just wasn’t right, so he’s getting some opinions about it,” the coach said.
  • Jaguars running back James Robinson didn’t start training camp on PUP, but he won’t be a full participant right away, tweets ESPN’s Michael DiRocco (on Twitter). The hope is that Robinson will be fully cleared to participate in games by mid-August, meaning he could be active for the start of the regular season. Robinson tore his Achilles in Week 16 of the 2021 campaign, putting his early-season availability in doubt. Meanwhile, DiRocco notes that linebacker Devin Lloyd tweaked his hamstring during a conditioning test and will be sidelined for a few days.
  • Colts All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard (previously Darius Leonard) was placed on PUP following offseason back surgery. The intent of the procedure was to relieve pressure on nerves in his back, and there was hope the surgery would also improve “functionality issues” in his left leg. Fortunately, Leonard said he immediately noticed a positive difference following the operation, and he said he’s focused on his rehab as training camp starts. “I’m not putting a timetable on it, but when I’m ready, you’ll see me on the field after that,” Leonard said (via Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star). “I’m ready to continue with my rehab, I’m happy with where I’m at right now, and hopefully we’ll continue to go forward with this process.”
  • Giants wideout Sterling Shepard was placed on PUP as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles. According to Dan Duggan of The Athletic, the goal is for Shepard to be ready for the start of the regular season, but it’s still unclear if the receiver will be ready by then. Offensive lineman Nick Gates is also on PUP as he recovers from a lower-leg fracture suffered last September. Duggan passes along that coach Brian Daboll was “surprisingly optimistic” about the status of the OL, revealing that there’s no guarantee that Gates will be forced to miss any time.

Jaguars Expect James Robinson Clearance During Training Camp

While bigger-picture matters plagued the Jaguars last season, their preferred backfield never took shape. Travis Etienne‘s preseason injury came months before James Robinson‘s Achilles tear, with the latter development clouding Jacksonville’s backfield for 2022 as well.

Etienne participated during the Jags’ OTAs and looks to be a key part of Doug Pederson‘s offense. Robinson is tracking toward being ready for the regular season as well, with Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com noting the Jags expect the third-year back to be cleared during training camp.

Robinson’s re-emergence may take some time after camp starts, opening the door to a potential PUP designation. But a clearance during camp would point to the former UDFA being carried over to the 53-man roster and either being kept active or placed on IR (mandating a four-game absence) to start the season. Fifth-round rookie Snoop Conner looms as insurance here, or perhaps more, for the AFC South franchise.

For his part, Robinson is not setting a timeline. The 23-year-old back has resumed straight-line running, but John Reid of the Florida Times-Union adds it not known when he will begin change-of-direction work. Robinson suffered the Achilles tear in Week 16 (Dec. 26). Cam Akers made it back to action in 5 1/2 months after his 2021 Achilles tear, giving Robinson a reasonable goal. A Week 1 return would give the Division I-FCS success story more than eight months of recovery time.

Although Etienne is a former first-round pick, Robinson staked his starter claim over the past two years. Being perhaps the Jaguars’ brightest spot during a dreadful period, Robinson set an NFL record for scrimmage yards by a rookie UDFA in 2020 (1,414, which he compiled in 14 games) and averaged a career-high 4.7 yards per carry last season. He is already extension-eligible, due to being undrafted, but would likely be better-positioned for a deal next year — assuming his Achilles rehab finishes well.

Latest On Jaguars’ James Robinson

The Jaguars’ running game was a fraction of what it could have been in 2021, considering the tandem of James Robinson and first-rounder Travis Etienne. Injuries dealt a major blow to both of them, and the team’s offense struggled in no small part as a result. 

In Robinson’s case, his season was ended in December by a torn Achilles. With Etienne having been ruled out for his entire rookie season due to a Lisfranc injury months prior, Robinson was still comfortably the team’s leading rusher for the second straight season. He ended up with 989 scrimmage yards and eight rushing touchdowns, despite the missed time due to the injury and a noticeably lower snap share compared to his standout rookie campaign.

However, the timing of the Achilles tear immediately left his Week 1 availability for the 2022 season in doubt. On that point, John Reid of the Florida Times-Union confirms that Robinson is unlikely to be healthy in time for training camp in July, as he continues to rehab his injury. Assuming the former UFDA is indeed unable to participate in camp, there will be understandable questions raised about his ability to return to form upon his return.

Jacksonville is on track to have Etienne in the fold when the season begins, which should allow him to take on the No. 1 role in Robinson’s potential absence. Considering the injury questions surrounding both of them, it came as little surprise when the team also drafted Snoop Conner in the fifth round. Overall, the Jaguars figure to have an improved offense in general and on the ground in particular, but it remains to be seen if their most consistent contributor in recent years will be available right way when the season begins.

Jaguars Looking At OL Ekwonu With Top Pick

We wrote a bit in January about NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu potentially being the best offensive lineman in the draft. Well, he certainly thinks so, as he told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine Thursday that he’d “definitely deserve” to be drafted No. 1 overall, according to Darryl Slater of NJ.com

He’s not totally off base in his thinking. ESPN’s Mel Kiper mocked Ekwonu to Jacksonville in his latest mock draft just before the Combine. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, many at the Combine, including ESPN’s Todd McShay, expected Ekwonu to blow up in Indianapolis.

There’s already been a bit of talk connecting Ekwonu to the Jaguars. General manager Trent Baalke has a tendency to prefer explosive linemen and Ekwonu demonstrated his explosiveness in field drills including an impressive sub-5.00 second 40-yard dash. Baalke and new head coach Doug Pederson will be looking to put together a group at offensive line that can protect former No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and create holes for running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne.

Jawaan Taylor is expected to compete with Walker Little for the right tackle job. Captain Brandon Linder should return to form at center after MCL and ankle injuries forced him to miss a large part of the 2021 NFL season. Andrew Norwell is expected to hit the free agent market and Cam Robinson could join him if the team decides not to utilize their franchise tag on Robinson for the second straight year. Veteran sixth-man Tyler Shatley was recently re-signed and Ben Bartch could help out at guard. So the versatility of Ekwonu could line him up as the perfect choice for Jacksonville’s current situation, where lots of question marks surround the depth chart. Even so, the Jaguars could also fall in love with Evan Neal, who is largely seen as the top pure tackle in the draft.

Still, the redshirt sophomore out of Raleigh is a young, talented prospect with the ability to dominate at tackle or guard. Even if he slips past Jacksonville at No. 1 overall, don’t expect him to be available after both New York teams get a chance to draft. Ekwonu will aim to be only the third Wolfpack offensive lineman in history to be picked in the first round, the highest-drafted Wolfpack prospect since Bradley Chubb in 2018, and, above that, the first top overall pick out of NC State since Mario Williams in 2006.

AFC Coaching Notes: Colts, Bills, Jaguars, Ravens

Since Frank Reich was able to land defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to replace Bears’ head coach Matt Eberflus, Bradley has begun the process of putting his staff together. Today Bradley added longtime defensive backs coach Ron Milus to coach his secondary, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Milus first started coaching defensive backs at his alma mater, the University of Washington, about eight years after playing cornerback there. He held the college position for seven years before getting an NFL coaching opportunity in 2000. Since then, Milus hasn’t spent a season out of work with stints in Denver, Arizona, New York (Giants), St. Louis, Carolina, San Diego, and Las Vegas. His longest stint was with the Chargers, spending eight years in southern California and transitioning with the team to Los Angeles. It was in Los Angeles that Milus was retained when Bradley joined the Chargers’ staff. He followed Bradley to Las Vegas and will join him once more in Indianapolis.

Here are a few other coaching notes from around the AFC starting with another bit from the Hoosier State:

  • In addition to Milus, Mike Chappell of Fox59 reports that Indianapolis is also in the process of hiring linebackers coach Richard Smith, who worked with Bradley and Milus in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Smith has coached in the NFL since he debuted for the Houston Oilers in 1988 coaching special teams and tight ends. He found his niche as a linebackers coach in 1997 for the 49ers and has had three short stints as a defensive coordinator in Miami, Houston, and Atlanta.
  • ESPN’s Yates also tweeted out a report that the Bills have added former QB Kyle Shurmur on staff in a defensive quality control position. After four years at Vanderbilt, Shurmur signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chiefs, spending time on their practice squad as well as on the Bengals’ and Washington’s practice squads. He was released by Washington a little over a month ago and that appears to mark the end of his playing career. He seems to be following in the footsteps of his father, Pat Shurmur, and joining the coaching track.
  • A castaway from the Matt Nagy Bears’ staff, outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey will not be without work for long as Curtis Crabtree of NBC Sports reports that Shuey is joining Doug Pederson‘s staff in Jacksonville in the same role. Shuey and Pederson had two separate tenures together in Philadelphia.
  • Pederson also made a crucial move of retaining running backs coach Bernie Parmalee. Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network tells us that keeping Parmalee was a priority for Pederson, especially due to his strong relationship with star running back James Robinson.
  • Baltimore has hired Rob Leonard as outside linebackers coach, according to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley (Twitter). Leonard will replace Drew Wilkins who left to join Brian Daboll‘s staff in New York. Leonard spent the past three seasons in the same position with the Dolphins. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic adds that former Michigan analyst Ryan Osborn will follow Mike Macdonald to the Ravens for a quality control position. Osborn is credited with having a role in the development of Wolverines’ EDGE players like Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/27/21

Today’s minor moves:

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Jacksonville Jaguars

New Orleans Saints

Washington Football Team

Torn Achilles For Jaguars’ James Robinson?

Update, 3:39 PM: Interim head coach Darrell Bevell has announced that running back James Robinson has indeed torn his Achilles today in the team’s loss to the Jets.

12:55 PM: Jaguars running back James Robinson appears to have suffered an Achilles tear (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Robinson will know more after an MRI, but this will likely cap his 2021 season.

[RELATED: Jaguars Place Hyde, Jenkins On IR]

Robinson, 23, has been bright spot for the Jaguars in an otherwise tumultous year. Heading into today’s game, Robinson had 757 yards off of 161 carries (4.7 yards per tote) and eight rushing touchdowns through 13 contests. He also put up numbers as a pass catcher, tallying 31 grabs for 222 yards. It was a similar story last year — even as the Jaguars sagged, Robinson rushed for 1,070 yards, good for fifth in the NFL.

The Jaguars, losers of six straight, are in line for the No. 1 pick as of this writing. Even if they advance to 3-13 with a win over the Jets today, they’ll have little reason to put Robinson in danger.

Without further complications, Robinson should still be able to participate in training camp next year. As a restricted free agent, he’ll return as the Jaguars’ lead RB on an extremely under-market contract. The Jaguars will may add to that group, however, since Carlos Hyde can be released to save $2MM against just $450K in dead money.

Urban Meyer’s Thoughts On Firing

NFL.com recently conducted an exclusive interview with former Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer was fired by Jacksonville shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.

The interview covered many of the unflattering headlines that have colored the coach’s tenure in Duval, but started with an apology. Meyer apologized to the City of Jacksonville and painted the picture of a successful football future for the City, including a full stadium and a new facility promised by Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan.

Meyer talked a bit about something that he didn’t have a ton of experience with previously: losing. Meyer commented, “Losing eats away at your soul. Once you start losing, it’s hard on everybody.” This was perhaps most clear during what would be Meyer’s last post-game handshake of the 2021 NFL season, in which it seemed he couldn’t be bothered to even look at his former assistant, Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel, after a convincing 20-0 loss. Meyer commented on that moment, claiming that he and Vrabel are really close and saying, “that had nothing to do with [Vrabel]…I can’t take losing. I try to accept it, it just eats away at my soul.” 

On many of the recent headlines that were thought to have contributed to his early exit, Meyer argued that they just weren’t true. Meyer said that a reported incident during which team captain Marvin Jones left the facility due to Meyer’s public and private criticism was not accurately portrayed. He also completely denied that he delivered a message to his assistant coaches that he is a winner and they are losers. Meyer also disputed that a preseason altercation occurred wherein he kicked former Jaguars’ kicker Josh Lambo while Lambo was stretching. Meyer was quoted saying, “It was like, ‘Wait a minute, where is this coming from?’ I’ve certainly made a few mistakes but those weren’t right.”

Meyer was asked about another highly criticized decision he made of benching James Robinson for an extended period of time against the Rams. The second-year running back is widely thought to be the best player on the struggling Jaguars. Meyer shrugged the decision off as a miscommunication. “We discussed it as a staff,” said Meyer. “When you see someone lose the ball or even see them be loose with the ball, get them out of the game, get their mind right, and then get them back in. When he fumbled, I said, ‘Take him out.’ We took him out and then we had lack of communication about when to put him back in.”

The other young star on Meyer’s former team is number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence. Meyer was complimentary of the 22 year old quarterback, commiserating with the tough situation he was put into. Meyer noted the franchise’s 15-game losing streak and injuries to key contributors on offense as obstacles Lawrence had to face. He ended the discussion on Lawrence saying, “There is zero doubt Trevor is going to be a great NFL quarterback.”

Questions were delivered on if there is an ongoing discussion with Jacksonville about the remaining money owed on his contract and on if Khan made the right move. Meyer declined to comment on both questions.

When asked what comes next for Meyer, he replied, “To be determined.” As of now, he has not heard from anyone in the football world about potential coaching opportunities. One can’t help but to think of where Meyer was a year ago, when he claimed he was living “the perfect life:” working at FOX with no plans to coach in the future.