James Robinson

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.

Jaguars Players, Coaches Frustrated With HC Urban Meyer

Ever since Urban Meyer skipped a team flight following a Week 4 loss to the Bengals, there have been questions surrounding the head coach’s commitment to and control within the Jaguars organization. In fact, we heard just last night that Meyer and GM Trent Baalke may not be seeing eye to eye. Well, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network has added some fuel to that fire this morning.

According to the reporter, tensions surrounding Meyer have “boiled over with multiple run-ins with players and other coaches in recent weeks.” This has led to rumblings that Meyer could be done in Jacksonville after only one season. The organization is naturally frustrated as they currently have a 2-10 record and have averaged only 10.6 points per game over the six contests since their bye. The HC has continually shifted blame on the players and coaches, per Pelissero, comments that have only helped to “exacerbated frustration in the building.”

The reporter provided more damning anecdotes that seem to show that things are spiraling out of control in Jacksonville. For starters, respected veteran wideout Marvin Jones recently left team facilities before returning and having a heated exchange with Meyer. Next, Meyer reportedly belittled coaches in a meeting by declaring that he was a “winner” and insinuating that his fellow coaches were “losers.” Finally, James Robinson‘s recent benching was indeed Meyer’s decision, and the HC tasked RB coach Bernie Parmalee with preventing the starter from reentering the game. Robinson only got more playing time once top-overall pick Trevor Lawrence questioned why his teammate wasn’t playing.

As Pelissero details, there’s a number of additional reasons why someone would question Meyer’s authority in Jacksonville. Multiple members of his staff have either stepped away or will be taking jobs elsewhere, and the organization was also slapped with fines about the HC’s violation of OTA rules (Meyer was also investigated after acknowledging that he factored vaccination status into his roster decisions). Then there was that whole flight fiasco earlier this season, which was followed by a notorious viral video that showed Meyer at a bar dancing with a woman.

Despite it all, Pelissero writes that owner Shad Khan has shown “no signs” of wanting to make a change. Khan has generally been loyal to his staff, and the owner had pursued Meyer for years. Unless things are truly too far gone, it sounds like Khan will be in favor of giving Meyer a second season with the organization.

Jaguars Seeking Running Back Help

As any fantasy GM who landed James Robinson last season can attest to, the Jaguars did well by signing the Division I-FCS product after the 2020 draft. But the new Jacksonville regime would prefer competition in the backfield going into next season.

Robinson logged 240 carries last season. That total represented a staggering portion of the team’s rushing attempts. In the 14 games Robinson played, no other Jaguar running back logged more than 10 totes. That ratio will almost certainly change in Urban Meyer‘s first season.

He’s tough. He has a great mindset, the type of player we’re looking. We have to add some explosive to that room as well and we have to be able to take some of the carries off of James,” Jags GM Trent Baalke said. “You can only ride a horse so long.”

Even after Cam Robinson‘s $13.75MM franchise tag, the Jags lead the league in cap space ($73.67MM). They could win a bidding war for any of the free agent backs. As of now, that group would stand to include Aaron Jones, Chris Carson, Kenyan Drake and Marlon Mack. The Broncos also have a decision to make regarding Phillip Lindsay‘s RFA tender.

A pursuit of Jones or Carson may not be in the cards, but the team will be in the mix for a complementary piece — be it in free agency or early in the draft. While Meyer said (via John Oehser of Jaguars.com) he hopes to build around Robinson, the new Jags HC indeed wants more ball-carrying talent on next year’s team.

He has done a great job. He will continue to do a great job for the organization, and we feel he’ll even take a step forward from where he was a year ago,” Meyer said of Robinson. “But adding some competitiveness to that room … we feel we’ve got some guys in-house that can compete for roles but we’re certainly looking to add to that room as well.”

The Illinois State product rushed for 1,070 yards, which ranked fifth in the league last season. While Robinson is a ways away from the open market, the Jaguars can move to extend him after next season due to his UDFA status. The Jaguars do not have much in the way of depth behind Robinson; would-be contributor Ryquell Armstead‘s NFL return is uncertain after he missed the entire season due to COVID-19.

Jaguars’ James Robinson Out For Week 16

Not only will the Jaguars pivot back to the recently benched Mike Glennon, they will be without their top 2020 offensive performer against the Bears.

Jacksonville will hold out running back James Robinson in Week 16, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Robinson has battled knee and ankle trouble as of late, with the latter issue causing him to miss some time last week.

This certainly is not surprising. The Jags held out their rookie UDFA success story this week in practice and have incentive not to aggressively pursue a victory. The Jets’ Week 15 loss moved the Jags into pole position to land Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall. The Jaguars, who have lost 13 straight games since their Week 1 win, would secure that draft slot were they to lose their final two games. Doug Marrone‘s staff will now be without the team’s top chain-mover Sunday.

Robinson is one of just three 1,000-yard rushers this season; his 1,070 sits third behind only Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook this season. It appears likely his season is over. The next time the Illinois State product suits up, he may be taking handoffs from Lawrence.