With Yeldon hurt, Robinson returns to starting role for Jags
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Denard Robinson is about to get a progress report.
''I feel like I've grown as a player and as a running back,'' Robinson said Wednesday. ''I think that's the biggest thing. I have grown from my rookie year to last year and to this year.''
The Jaguars (5-8) agree and don't anticipate much, if any, of a drop-off when Robinson replaces Yeldon against the fading Atlanta Falcons (6-7) on Sunday. Yeldon has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and is expected to miss at least a week.
''In my mind, it's more day to day,'' coach Gus Bradley said. ''We keep challenging our guys, when they're injured, to compete and be surprised when you're not up and ready to go.''
Yeldon's injury creates an opportunity for Robinson, who started nine games last season and topped 100 yards on the ground twice. Robinson ran for 582 yards and four touchdowns last season, but lost his job shortly after the Jaguars made Yeldon a second-round draft pick in May.
Robinson was expected to be a change-of-pace guy off the bench, but sprained a knee ligament in Week 2 and missed three games. He has 42 carries for 196 yards and a touchdown this season, but looked sharp against Indianapolis on Sunday.
Robinson ran 14 times for 75 yards and a score after Yeldon left the game.
''I just think he looked real decisive,'' offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. ''It always hurts when you lose somebody. ... But the good thing is we feel real good about Denard and the way he went in there and ran. He's gotten a lot better from where he was a year ago.
''You look at his game last week and go back and look at some tape from a year ago and you'd say this guy is a lot more decisive. He's bigger. He seems to hit the hole with a little bit more speed and a little bit power. So we're encouraged about the way he came in and played.''
The Jaguars are counting on Robinson, too.
With Toby Gerhart, Bernard Pierce and Corey Grant on injured reserve and Yeldon sidelined, the Jaguars are essentially down to Robinson in the backfield. They also have Joe Banyard, who was signed off the practice squad in October, but he has yet to play an offensive snap in seven games. And they signed Jonas Gray off Miami's practice squad Tuesday, but he was trying to learn the playbook Wednesday.
Gray played in six games with the Dolphins this season, running for 122 yards. He also has spent time with New England and Baltimore.
''The league is crazy,'' Gray said. ''You never know what can happen in the league. I do know that with the opportunities I've been given, teams continue to want me there on their team. As long as you're in the league, you belong there. It's frustrating at times, but I just keep working on my craft, doing all the right things and working hard, and hopefully it works out for me.''
Robinson has waited for another chance, too.
He looked good running between the tackles against the Colts and nearly broke several long ones.
''One of the strength guys always tells me, `Show me what you use to do at Michigan,''' Robinson said. ''I'm trying to get one of those big runs and one of those big plays. That's the goal. But just keep doing what you're doing and stay focused. Stay true to yourself. That's honestly the biggest thing.''
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