James Robinson’s declining usage remains big question for Jaguars

Urban Meyer says RB rotation not his decision

James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs with the ball against Mykal Walker of the Atlanta Falcons in the first half at TIAA Bank Field on November 28, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) (Sam Greenwood, 2021 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville’s best offensive weapon fumbled on the second play of the game and was barely heard from again. Was that quick hook part of the game plan or was it punishment for James Robinson?

While it certainly looked more like the latter, coach Urban Meyer said Monday that wasn’t the case.

The Jaguars (2-10) were manhandled by the Rams on Sunday, dropping their fourth straight game and reaching double digit losses for the 10th time in 11 seasons. The 37-7 loss was the most lopsided since Dec. 8, 2019, a 45-10 blowout by the Chargers.

Losing to Los Angeles wasn’t a surprise. The Jaguars were 13.5-point underdogs and have seldom played well in games on the West Coast (they’re 3-16 there all-time). But with the passing game unable to get going for the last month and half, the Jaguars still have a better-than-average ground game. Robinson, even banged up, has been Jacksonville’s best option at consistently moving the ball.

But he got just eight carries against the Rams, his lowest total in a full game since five carries in Week 1 against the Texans. A fumble last week against the Falcons put Robinson on the sidelines for 18 plays.

Meyer denied that the Jaguars were punishing Robinson for his recent fumble issues. Robinson lost a fumble on Jacksonville’s second play of the game and the Rams recovered. Four plays later, Sony Michel scored on a 5-yard run and Los Angeles led 10-0. They never looked back. Meyer said that there was no quick hook for Robinson for the mistake, even though that’s what it looked like from the outside.

“I don’t believe, it’s not on my end. That’s not true at all,” Meyer said.

Robinson was pulled from the game after that, with Carlos Hyde handling the offensive load. Robinson’s next snap of merit came with 19 seconds to play in the half when he was targeted by Trevor Lawrence. He didn’t carry the ball again until the early part of the third quarter, more than 30 game minutes later.

The issues with Robinson are curious because he remains the team’s most consistent offensive player, even with lost fumbles in back-to-back games.

“I know that there’s a running back rotation, they’re worried about his load, how many carries and they track that,” Meyer said. “And obviously at that time of the game, they must have wanted to get him a few more carries, [running backs coach] Bernie [Parmalee] did.

“I’m aware of it [of the rotation]. I’m not in charge of it, but I watch it and I’ll say, ‘what’s our thoughts here? What’s our thoughts there?’ Obviously, I didn’t do it there with James.”

Meyer has said that Robinson’s workload has been limited because of injuries to both his heel and knee. But Robinson was still in the game late, even with the Jaguars buried in a 30-point deficit. When asked if that made sense given Meyer’s previous comments about Robinson’s health being a limiting factor, he didn’t hesitate to say it was not the right decision.

“I’d agree [it wasn’t the right call],” Meyer said.

With five games left in another lost season, Meyer said that he’s not throwing in the towel and treating the final stretch as just an audition for younger players.

“I’d like to win some games. That’s number one. And then certainly, you know, [Andre] Cisco got some playing time yesterday. Walker [Little] was a guy that played one game and played pretty well,” he said. “But you we’re not sacking the bats though … if they can help us win a game they’re going to be in there.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.