JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars have narrowed Denard Robinson’s playlist.
The Jaguars originally put the former Michigan star in just about every offensive formation and special teams unit they had during offseason workouts. He lined up at running back, receiver and quarterback, and also returned punts and kickoffs.
However, there was one recurring theme: ball security. Robinson, who’s listed as an “offensive weapon” on the depth chart, struggled to hold onto the football, dropping passes, fumbling snaps and botching punts.
So the Jaguars decided to back off during training camp, taking him off punt returns and limiting his offensive role to mostly runs and wildcat formations.
“We did take less off of him,” coach Gus Bradley said. “We’ve got him more towards kickoff returns, some of the things he’s doing offensively. We’re taking some things off of his plate to see if that just frees up his mind a little bit more.”
Robinson is still plenty involved. He ran at least five wildcat plays during 11-on-11 drills Wednesday and carried a few times Thursday.
“I’ve just got to work on it,” Robinson said. “I’m not going to run away from no problem.”
Jacksonville selected Robinson in the fifth round, the 135th overall pick, in April’s draft. The decision came after new general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley evaluated the team and determined team speed was lacking all over the field. So they chose South Carolina receiver Ace Sanders, the Southeastern Conference’s top return man last season, in the fourth round and added Robinson 34 picks later.
Both became instant fan favorites.
On a team with several plodders, their speed, elusiveness and big-play ability have stood out.
But outsiders are quick to forget they are middle-round picks, long shots to make impacts right away. The Jaguars might not have done Robinson any favors, either, by listing him as an “OW” on the roster.
Sure, an “offensive weapon” is what Robinson dubbed himself on draft day. But the team perpetuated it, possibly setting the rookie up for failure.
After all, the Jaguars have flopped repeatedly in recent years while trying to reposition players coming out of college.
Few will forget former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones, who switched to receiver before the 2005 draft. The Jaguars drafted the 6-foot-6 project with the 21st overall pick and vowed to make him a go-to guy.
Jones led the team with 65 receptions and 761 yards in 2008, but ended up in the substance-abuse program and never played again.
Jacksonville also found little, if any, success trying to move Nebraska-Omaha quarterback Zach Miller (2009-12), Connecticut quarterback Tyler Lorenzen (2009), Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Michael Desormeaux (2009) and Furman quarterback Chris Forcier (2012).
Arguably the most successful swap has involved Liberty quarterback Mike Brown, who spent most of last season on the practice squad and is now working as the team’s slot receiver.
Robinson was much more productive in college than any of those guys.
He holds the NCAA record for career rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,495 yards. He finished at Michigan with 42 rushing touchdowns, nearly two dozen 100-yard rushing games and a school-record 10,769 yards of total offense. He also had 6,250 yards passing, with 49 touchdowns and 39 interceptions.
He is the only player in NCAA history to throw for 2,500 yards and run for 1,500 more in the same season, accomplishing the feat as a sophomore in 2010.
The Jaguars believe he can be effective in the NFL, especially if they limit his touches to about 10 a game.
“However it goes, I want to be an offensive weapon,” said Robinson, who was chosen to be on the cover of EA Sports’ NCAA Football 14. “I want to be somebody that can get the ball and make something happen from anywhere in the backfield. I’m taking on that one. I just got to keep working and get better at everything.”
At first, Robinson’s ball security issues were somewhat excusable since he arrived in Jacksonville with 10 stitches in his right hand. The wannabe chef sliced it open while cutting potatoes and spent a few weeks wearing a cumbersome brace on his primary ball-carrying hand.
But once the cast was gone, the problems didn’t go away.
“He’s got to be able to take care of the ball,” Bradley said. “If we can’t have ball security and feel confident in that, then you may not see it. (He’s getting) better, but not where we want it.”