What does James Robinson bring to the New York Jets?
After losing star rookie running back Breece Hall to a season-ending ACL injury, the Jets did not stand pat with what they had. Douglas pulled off a rare win-now move, trading a sixth-round pick (which will turn into a fifth-round pick if he hits 600 rushing yards this year) for Jaguars running back James Robinson.
What exactly does Robinson offer the Jets? Let’s dig into everything there is to know about him as a player. We’ll take a look at James Robinson’s stats, advanced numbers, usage, tendencies, and more.
- Height: 5’9 (20th percentile for RB)
- Weight: 219lb (66th)
- Arm length: 29.6in (11th)
- Hand size: 8.75in (14th)
- 40-yard dash: 4.64s (23rd)
- Vertical jump: 40in (94th)
- Broad jump: 125in (87th)
- 3-cone drill: 7.03s (58th)
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.19s (67th)
- Bench press: 24 reps (84th)
- Relative Athletic Score (RAS): 7.85 out of 10 (79th percentile)
Robinson is a shorter, stockier back who doesn’t offer much long speed but does offer excellent strength and explosiveness.
Robinson’s small hands are a slight concern. They may be part of the reason he has eight fumbles in 35 career games.
Overall, Robinson offers good athleticism relative to his size, earning a RAS of 7.85 out of 10 (79th percentile all-time for RB prospects). His vertical jump, broad jump, and bench press performances were his best, showcasing an intriguing blend of lower and upper body strength. The man is a tank.
Overall career production
Here are Robinson’s standard career totals:
- 35 games (32 starts)
- 485 rush attempts
- 2,177 rush yards (62.2 per game / 4.5 per carry)
- 18 rush touchdowns
- 117 targets
- 89 receptions (76.1% catch rate)
- 612 receiving yards (17.5 per game / 6.9 per reception / 5.2 per target)
- 4 receiving touchdowns
- 2,789 scrimmage yards (79.7 per game)
- 22 scrimmage touchdowns
Robinson brings a fantastic track record of production. For his career, he is producing 79.7 yards from scrimmage per game to go with 0.63 touchdowns, giving him a per-17-game pace of 1,355 yards and 11 touchdowns.
One of my favorite aspects of Robinson’s profile is his ability to be efficient in a workhorse role. You can feed him the football on a high volume and he will still give you great results on a per-carry basis.
In 18 games where he was given 15+ carries, Robinson rushed for 1,593 yards on 335 carries, giving him 88.5 rushing yards per game on a superbly efficient 4.8 yards per carry.
To boot, Robinson added 52 receptions for 341 yards in those 18 games, an average of 18.9 receiving yards per game that pushes him to a sparkling total of 107.4 scrimmage yards per game when he gets 15+ carries.
Put this man in charge of your offense and he will not let you down.
Role in Jacksonville
Robinson comes to New York with fairly limited mileage due to peculiar under-utilization in Jacksonville. He has 574 career touches at 24 years old.
The Jaguars worked Robinson hard in his 2020 rookie season. That year, he logged 240 carries in 14 games (17.1 per game) to go along with 49 receptions (3.5 per game) for a total of 289 touches (20.6 per game). He established himself as a potential long-term centerpiece for the franchise, as he ranked sixth among running backs with 1,414 yards from scrimmage despite missing two games.
Urban Meyer came in to coach the Jaguars in 2021, and Robinson began losing playing time to Meyer’s Ohio State comrade, Carlos Hyde. Robinson finished the year with 164 carries in 14 games (11.7 per game) along with 31 receptions (2.2 per game) for a total of 195 touches (13.9 per game).
With Meyer in town, Robinson would have games with single-digit carries despite clearly being a better player than the much older Hyde. Robinson finished the year with 4.7 yards per carry compared to Hyde’s 3.5.
Robinson also left two games early due to injury in 2021, so that hurt his overall stats.
In 2022, Robinson began the season as Jacksonville’s lead back ahead of Travis Etienne, who was a first-round pick in 2021 but missed his entire rookie year. Robinson averaged 19.0 touches over the first three games.
However, from there, the Jaguars slowly started to favor their larger investment, phasing Robinson out of the offense as Etienne took over. In his last game as a Jaguar, Robinson logged his first career game with zero carries, which shocked many in the Jaguars community.
Staying true to his career trends, Robinson played his best this season when he was being featured. Over his first three games (17.0 carries per game), Robinson averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Over his next three (10.0 carries per game), he averaged 3.7 yards per carry.
Robinson’s tendency to perform better with more carries leads me to believe that he will be taking over for Hall as the Jets’ lead back, while Michael Carter will remain in his current role as the No. 2.
Yardage after contact
As you would expect from a running back with Robinson’s size and strength, he is stellar at gaining yardage after contact.
In his 2020 rookie season, Robinson ranked eighth among all running backs with 764 yards after contact. He ranked 12th out of 61 running backs (82nd percentile) in yards after contact per carry with 3.2.
In 2021, Robinson crept up to 3.3 yards after contact per carry, which placed him 11th out of 61 qualifiers (83rd percentile).
This year, Robinson has dipped to 2.7 yards after contact per carry, placing 37th out of 55 backs (33rd percentile), so the Jets are hoping a return to his career norms is coming in the near future. Perhaps all he needs is a return to a featured role. Robinson was at 3.1 over his first three games before the Jaguars started phasing him out.
Outperforming the offensive line
Robinson’s ability to gain yards after contact is the reason he has been so successful in his career despite running behind a poor Jacksonville offensive line.
Jacksonville has ranked in the bottom half of most run-blocking categories over the last three years. For instance, in ESPN’s run-block win rate, the Jaguars have ranked 26th, 21st, and 20th from 2020 to 2022 (average percentile rank: 31st).
Robinson has greatly outperformed the expectations laid by those rankings. He’s produced a very solid average of 4.5 yards per carry in his career, which ranks 17th out of 50 running backs with 200+ carries since 2020 (67th percentile).
The disparity between Jacksonville’s run-blocking rankings and Robinson’s efficiency ranking is a tremendous indicator of how good he is.
Robinson can provide some moderate contributions as a receiver. He is averaging 2.5 receptions for 17.5 yards in his career, with 4 receiving touchdowns in 35 games. We saw his best pass-catching flashes during his rookie year, when he averaged 3.5 receptions for 24.6 yards with 3 touchdowns.
Just about all of Robinson’s production comes as a safety blanket underneath. He’s not a guy who gives you a ton of route-running versatility. Robinson has only caught one pass in his career that traveled at least 10 yards downfield.
In terms of after-the-catch ability, Robinson is about league-average, perhaps slightly above. For his career, Robinson is averaging 7.6 yards after the catch per reception and 0.258 missed tackles forced per reception. The 2022 league averages for running backs are 7.6 and 0.243, respectively.
Robinson’s hands are decent. He has 7 drops against 89 receptions, giving him a drop rate of 7.3% that is right around the typical league average for running backs (usually about 7%).
The greatest pass-game trait offered by Robinson is his blocking. Robinson has developed into a reliable pass protector.
In his rookie year, Robinson struggled with blocking, allowing 3 sacks and 12 total pressures on 79 pass-blocking snaps. Since then, Robinson has been a stalwart. Over the past two years, he has given up just 4 pressures on 54 pass-blocking snaps, including zero sacks and zero quarterback hits.
The league-average running back in 2022 has allowed a pressure on 8.8% of their pass-blocking snaps and a sack or hit on 3.4%. Robinson’s marks over the past two years are 7.4% and 0.0%, respectively.
It can be argued that Robinson’s pass-game skill-set is the biggest reason why he is a good pickup for the Jets. If they did not acquire a new running back, they would be relying on Ty Johnson to step in as one of the Jets’ top two running backs. Johnson has a history of struggling mightily with drops and pass-blocking. New York would experience a dramatic increase in pass-game mistakes out of the backfield.
Robinson brings sorely needed pass-game reliability to the Jets’ backfield, which they lost with Hall’s injury. Now that they once again have two backs they can rely upon in the passing game, the Jets can continue utilizing their highly effective two-back package.
Robinson is a reliable goal-line back. In his career, Robinson has scored a touchdown on 8-of-8 carries from the one-yard line. That ties him for the fifth-most one-yard touchdowns in the NFL since 2020. No player has logged more carries from the one-yard line without failing to convert.
Since 2020, NFL teams have scored a touchdown on just 57.1% of all rush attempts from the one-yard line, so Robinson’s perfect conversion rate is quite impressive (especially considering his offensive line).
The trade-up and selection of Breece Hall in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft clearly showed that the Jets want to have two good running backs. They already had Michael Carter, who is a perfectly acceptable No. 1 back, so making the aggressive move to add Hall made it clear how they want their backfield to be structured.
With the loss of Hall, the Jets were left with only one back they could truly depend on. Guys like Ty Johnson and Bam Knight offer interesting athletic traits, but neither player has come remotely close to proving they can handle the responsibilities that come with being a fixture in the offense on a weekly basis. Clearly, the Jets agreed with that sentiment, or they would not have parted with a draft pick to acquire a new player.
Adding Robinson allows the Jets to continue running their offense as intended. While they will absolutely miss the special playmaking ability offered by Hall, Robinson is a capable all-around running back who can handle whatever responsibilities the Jets toss on his plate. New York can move forward without having to alter the playbook.
Robinson will impress Jets fans in a much different fashion than Hall. Whereas Hall was a home-run hitter, Robinson does his damage by consistently powering through tacklers to gain bonus yardage after contact. His ability to out-produce the offensive line should come in handy behind a Jets offensive line that might struggle without Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Don’t expect Robinson to get those 60+ yard breakaways that Hall was racking up (Robinson’s career-long is 58 yards), but you can count on him to keep the Jets ahead of the chains by picking up healthy chunks on early downs and converting in short-yardage situations.