One area of Brian Robinson Jr.’s game that’s been ‘a pleasant surprise’

One area of Robinson's game that's been 'a pleasant surprise' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

ASHBURN, Va. — The purpose for drafting Brian Robinson Jr. was simple: the Washington Commanders were looking for a powerful running back to complement Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic in the backfield.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 228 pounds, Robinson is both the tallest and heaviest player in Washington’s running back room. His physical running style, evident by his standout All-SEC campaign at Alabama in 2021, has yet to be put on display in Washington — padded practices don’t start until Tuesday.

But throughout OTAs, minicamp and training camp, there’s been one specific area of Robinson Jr.’s game that has caught the eye of Washington’s coaching staff: his pass-catching ability.

“That has been a pleasant surprise,” running backs coach Randy Jordan told NBC Sports Washington.

Throughout both individual sessions and team drills, Robinson Jr. has displayed a natural ability to catch the football. Couple that with his size and all of a sudden, the rookie presents a matchup problem for many opposing defenders.

“This guy is 6-foot-2. He’s 220 [pounds]. He’s a big guy to get down on the grass for a safety or a corner,” Jordan said. “So if he can continue to develop that in his game, then he can be a really good player for us.”

Jordan isn’t the only coach that’s noticed Robinson Jr.’s pass-catching skills, as the rookie has caught the attention of head coach Ron Rivera as well.

“That’s one of the exciting things like a big guy like him out in space: You get him in 1-on-1, you make a cut and the next thing you know you’re into the second level and now you have corners and smaller DBs having to tackle him,” Rivera said following practice Monday. “That’s a pretty good matchup for us.”

In fairness to Robinson Jr., the running back showcased his ability to be an effective pass-catching back during his final season in Tuscaloosa. Robinson Jr. hauled in 35 receptions for 296 yards and two touchdowns last fall, a respectable stat line to go along with his 1,343 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns.

So, while this part of Robinson Jr.’s game might come as a surprise to some of Washington’s coaches, the running back has been doing it for some time.

“I just got to continue to show that’s part of my game that I possess,” Robinson told NBCSW following practice Monday. “Continue to run routes, continue to catch the ball consistently, continue to just keep working on it. I feel like I’ll be able to prove all that when the time comes. I’ll be ready for it for sure.”

At Alabama, it took Robinson Jr. until his fifth season to earn the starting running back job. In Washington, the running back will have to earn playing time, too, as both Gibson and McKissic are ahead of him on the depth chart.

Robinson Jr. knows he’s got his work cut out for him, even if the early returns have been positive. As his first professional training camp enters its second week, Robinson Jr. is focusing on solely what he can control.

“I think [camp is] going pretty [well],” Robinson Jr. said. “Just a work in progress and continue to develop with this team. … Continue to get better every day.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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