Rookie Denard Robinson, the NFL’s First Listed “Offensive Weapon”

Denard RobinsonThis week, the Jacksonville Jaguars made news during a slow news cycle. No, it's got no involvement with them moving to London. The news was the listing of 5th round pick Denard Robinson's position. Instead of being dubbed as a quarterback or running back, both positions he played while at the University of Michigan, or wide receiver, where he played at the Senior Bowl, Robinson now has an “OW” next to his name for Offensive Weapon .

The first thing that comes to mind when the Robinson news broke was Kordell Stewart and the “Slash” position he had in the league. Stewart lined up as a quarterback, running back, receiver, and even punter in his 11 NFL season. A couple weeks after the draft, Robinson actually talked about Stewart and the Slash position: “He said he's a 'Slash.' He  said he can put me at anywhere. That's what I want to do. I want to be somebody that fits in to the team and being one of the team players."

 

It would seem Robinson wants to play all over the field, but unlike Stewart, Robinson isn't projected to see 80% of his touches as a passer. Prior to being pinned as an Offensive Weapon, Robinson was seeing most of his time in camp as a running back or slot receiver for the Jaguars. He even saw time returning kicks, something he had never done before. Alex Marves, a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com, gave some insight on how Robinson would be used, tweeting: “David Caldwell [Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager] praised Denard Robinson for burst at RB at rookie minicamp. Plan is Denard receiving 10-15 touches a game & returning kicks.” 

Things get hazy with quarterbacks turned other skill position players, though. Rex Ryan said he'd give Tim Tebow 20 snaps a game last season, but that only turned out to produce a little more than two touches per game for the former-Gators quarterback. Robinson struggled catching passes at the Senior Bowl, which some have connected to an elbow injury, so if he wants to get on and stay on the field, he needs to enhance his role in the passing game.

Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko spent time watching Denard Robinson at the 2013 Senior Bowl

“Arriving at the Senior Bowl in late January, Robinson only had 3 weeks to learn how to run a wide array of routes, get separation, elude press coverage, finish catches away from his body, and understand his role as a blocker. While he was heavily criticized for his lack of development as a receiver while in Mobile by many in the major media, I was able to put in perspective this quick turnaround and take Robinson for what he truly was: a work in progress.

“I felt he showed bits of everything while at the Senior Bowl. His deep-out routes, hitch routes, and go routes flashed some development, impressive for an under-prepared receiver. He used his hands better than many college receivers to gain separation downfield on deep comebacks, though not consistently enough. His focus on reeling the ball in on the sideline flashed some raw ability, despite having just 3 career catches at Michigan. Denard Robinson showed just about every skill set a slot receiver needs to show at the Senior Bowl. He seemed to me to be just development (and practice) away from putting it all together. And from my perspective, he was developing these skills faster than anticipated.”

While his catching ability is in question, Robinson's ability as a runner is accomplished. He holds the top three Big 10 single-game rushing totals for a quarterback and five of the top nine spots. That edges out Indiana Hoosiers quarterback turned NFL wide receiver Antwaaan Randle El. Coupling Robinson's passing ability and running ability lead to Robinson's name all over the single-game total offense list at Michigan. He's recorded the top eight total offensive yard performances in the history of the school.

The Randle El and Robinson comparison fits in pretty well. Randle El played smaller and lighter than Robinson's reported measurements, but not by much. Randle El was listed at 5'10” 185 and Robinson's currently listed at 6'0” 197. Antwaan Randle El was known for his gadget play ability just as much as his ability as a pass catcher and kick returner after couple seasons in the league. I don't think it would be a stretch to think that Robinson can come in and throw some reverse passes or double passes, like Randle El did in his career, in between rushing attempts and running routes.

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