Colts Defense: Defending Denard


Oct 19, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Denard Robinson (16) celebrates his 4th quarter touchdown against the Cleveland Browns at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Richard Dole-USA TODAY Sports

When the Jacksonville Jaguars come into town on Sunday afternoon, the Indianapolis Colts will have to find a way to contain the Jacksonville Jaguars’ most dynamic offensive weapon in 2nd-year “running back” Denard Robinson. As you may recall (or at least IU or Purdue fans do), Robinson was the former quarterback at the University of Michigan, where he was a 1st-team All-American, First-Team Big Ten, and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2010. He has the most career rushing yards by a quarterback in NCAA FBS history.

Now successfully converted to running back at the pro level, Robinson has caught fire in recent weeks for the Jaguars. While his team has struggled, Robinson has been one of the offense’s lone bright spots. Since taking over the starting running back role in Week 7, Robinson has rushed for 4 touchdowns in 4 games, having gone over 90 rushing yards in 3 of those 4 games with a ypc average of 5.4 during that span. He’s flashed tremendous explosion and big play ability as a starter, having long runs of 20 yards (Week 7), 41 yards (Week 8), 39 yards (Week 9), and 32 yards (Week 10) respectively.

Unfortunately for the Colts’ defense, the Jaguars’ offense features Robinson in a number of unique ways, and we’ll take a look at some of those looks below:

Look 1: Wide Receiver Reverse

(14:31) (No Huddle, Shotgun) D.Robinson right end pushed ob at MIA 35 for 41 yards (R.Jones).

It wasn’t too long ago last season for the Jaguars where Denard Robinson’s listed team position was “offensive weapon“; however, the league didn’t enjoy that very much, so he was then officially titled as a wide reciever. Having experience as a wide receiver, the Jaguars aren’t afraid of lining up Robinson on the outside. Above, Robinson runs a misdirection, double wide receiver reverse that gauged the Miami Dolphins’ defense along the right sideline for 41 yards.

Look 2: QB-HB Read-Option

(1:39) (Shotgun) D.Robinson left guard to MIA 31 for 8 yards (R.Jones).

Unfortunately for the Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars run their own version of the read option, which can create some defensive confusion. Here, the Miami Dolphins’ linebacker, has to make a quick decision. He has to either crash hard down the line to stop Robinson and ignore the risk of Quarterback Blake Bortles keeping the football and running on his own, or pause to see who the football ultimately ends up with.

Look 2 (Contd.)

(1:39) (Shotgun) D.Robinson right guard to MIA 31 for 8 yards (R.Jones).

Above, the Miami Dolphins linebacker shows a slight bit of hesitation, but it’s just enough to give Denard Robinson enough time to burst past him for a gain of 8 yards down the field. Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles is athletic and fast enough, where opposing defenses have to respect his speed on these type of plays.

Looks 3 & 4: Halfback Stretch and Toss

(1:06) (No Huddle, Shotgun) D.Robinson right end to MIA 23 for 8 yards (R.Jones; M.Thomas).

Robinson might be at his best though on the outside, where he can showcase his speed and explosion in space. Not an overly big running back at a listed 6’0″, 197 pounds, the Jaguars don’t want him to continously take the wear and tear and punishment of running between the tackles. Here, he takes a stretch play to the right side of the Jaguars’ formation for 8 yards.

(14:04) D.Robinson left end pushed ob at JAX 43 for 8 yards (K.Sheppard).

Once again, the Jacksonville Jaguars looks to get Robinson on the outside (and consequently in space), and he obliges as he rushes for 8 yards on a halfback toss. Another instance where Robinson gets to showcase his tremendous speed and explosion on the outside.

Look 5: Halfback Screen

(13:31) B.Bortles pass short left to D.Robinson to MIA 47 for 10 yards (J.Jenkins; R.Starks) [J.Odrick].Here, Denard Robinson is used in the passing game with a halfback screen. He slips behind the Miami Dolphins’ pass rush and awaits the throw by Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles.

(13:31) B.Bortles pass short left to D.Robinson to MIA 47 for 10 yards (J.Jenkins; R.Starks) [J.Odrick].Perfectly executed, the Miami Dolphins pass rush gets too far upfield and Robinson is successfully able to slip behind them, uncovered, with blockers in front of him. He gained 10 yards on this screen pass. Once again, reiterating the desire of the Jaguars to have creative ways to get Denard Robinson in open space.

While the Jaguars as a team have struggled this year with a 1-9 record, one player that the Indianapolis Colts can’t afford to sleep on is their “running back” in Denard Robinson. He’s the Jaguars’ best offensive playmaker and can cause a lot of headaches for opposing defenses. His usage reminds me in a lot of ways of how offenses have utilized running back Reggie Bush in the past.

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As seen, the Jaguars aren’t shy at giving opposing defenses a multitude of looks, with the overall goal of usually getting Robinson in open space. The Colts’ defense will have to be mindful of these wide array of looks and can’t afford to lose sight of Robinson at any time.

It’s worth noting that when New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray gashed the Colts for 201 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns last weekend, it was primarily between the tackles and consequently in the middle of the field. In contrast, the Jaguars like to get the smaller Denard Robinson to the outside and in open space, where he can showcase his explosive ability.

Gary McCullough/For The Times-Union The Jaguars’ Denard Robinson looks for running room against the Colts during the third quarter on Sunday at EverBank Field.