One day after the Jacksonville Jaguars kept their best offensive player off the field for an extended period of time despite a myriad of issues on that side of the ball, head coach Urban Meyer didn't have new answers for James Robinson's three-drive absence against the Los Angeles Rams.
Again, the buck was passed to running backs coach Bernie Parmalee. And again, Meyer pointed to Robinson's absence following his first-quarter fumble in the 37-7 loss as a part of a running back rotation that factored in Robinson's current injury -- even though Robinson carried the ball on three of the final four plays of the blowout loss, making up nearly half of his carries for the day.
“That’s a good question. I know that there’s a running back rotation. We’re worried about his load and how many carries—and they track that. Obviously, at that point in the game, they must’ve wanted to get him a few more carries, Bernie did," Meyer said on Monday when asked why Robinson was still on the field against the Rams despite Meyer expressing injury concerns in his post-game press conference.
Robinson ended the day with just eight carries -- one fewer than veteran running back Carlos Hyde, who saw more snaps than Robinson for the first time this season in a game each was completely healthy for.
Two of Robinson's carries came on the first drive of the game while three came on the final drive, giving Robinson just three carries on the other nine drives. And after Robinson fumbled on his second carry of the day, the Jaguars deployed Hyde in their backfield for the entirety of the next three drives and on a key third-down on the fourth drive. Meyer didn't call it a benching on Sunday, but Sunday's usage doesn't point to it being injury-related, either.
"He's still not 100 percent. He's not practicing during the week. James is as good a guy, a tough a guy, team player as you've got, that I've ever been around. Your heart bleeds for the guy just because he's not able to do what he does well," Meyer said on Sunday. "He hasn't been that way since Seattle. He's not able to practice, but he wants to play, and he's still a very good player. You've just got to take care of the ball."
"You'd have to ask Coach Parmalee. I don't get too involved. I don't micromanage that. I know he's been dinged up, so I don't know if he's back with the tent or what's going on, but I know there's injury involved."
When pressed on Monday about Robinson's usage against the Rams -- including him having three carries on the final drive of a 30-point blowout -- Meyer said "I'd agree" when asked if it may not have been wise for Robinson to be in the game at that point if the Jaguars had injury concerns, but also again pointed to the fact that he doesn't take charge of the running back rotation.
“I’m aware of it, I’m not in charge of it but I’ll watch it and say, ‘What are thoughts are here? What are our thoughts there?’ Obviously, I didn’t do it there, with James," Meyer said on Monday.
With that said, there was some suggestion that could change moving forward to ensure Meyer's operation is running exactly the way he wants, which could see Meyer more involved in player rotations moving forward.
"Yeah, I am. I am because I have just got to make sure we do it the way I want it done.”
Robinson being absent from the field following a fumble isn't a one-time occurrence, which has only added another layer to the team's lack of usage of their leading rusher and their best offensive player.
Last week against the Falcons, Robinson missed an entire red-zone drive after fumbling the ball in the first-half. The Jaguars ended up kicking a field goal after stalling out near the goal line, in large part due to a dropped pass from Dare Ogunbowale on the third-string running back's only play of the game.
And again this Sunday, Robinson was left on the sidelines as the Jaguars drove down the field on their only scoring drive of the day, a 13-play drive that saw Hyde score on a two-yard run and take almost every single snap in the backfield (Laviska Shenault got one). This was following another fumble from Robinson, this time being stripped by Aaron Donald in the Jaguars' own territory on the team's second offensive snap of the game.
“Yeah, you have got to clamp the ball, that’s part of it. It wasn’t clamped at the end and he pulled it out of him," Meyer said on Monday.
For the Jaguars and Robinson, it was another example of the team's top back being sent to the sidelines to watch following a fumble before eventually returning over a dozen plays later. Considering this has happened now two weeks in a row, it is fair to call it a trend.
Robinson's injury will continue to loom over the running back rotation, but it is worth noting that Hyde returned on the very next drive after his own fumble in the third-quarter. Still, Meyer didn't agree with the notion on Monday that Robinson was being judged more harshly for his mistakes than other players on the mistake-plauged roster.
“I don’t believe it’s true, no, it’s not. On my end, it’s not true at all," Meyer said.
Week 14 will be the next step in figuring out the Jaguars' running back rotation. Robinson hasn't been the same since his Week 8 injury against the Seattle Seahawks, frequently being limited in practice and being listed as questionable entering each Sunday.
Still, the Jaguars' usage of Robinson didn't exactly mesh with Meyer's words on Sunday, at least enough to the point that Meyer even agreed with aspects of the argument on Monday when asked.
And for now, the answers on the running back rotation are just that -- double down answers that don't exactly form a clear picture.