Aldrick Robinson has the speed to be gone in the blink of an eye, but he slowed down just enough Thursday evening to show his coaches and teammates that he's more than ready to make a serious run at a final roster spot for the Redskins.
Robinson, a wide receiver, was targeted five times in Thursday's preseason opener against the New England Patriots, making three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Robinson has also logged some impressive days of practice at training camp this year, but knows first-year head coach Jay Gruden is putting a heavy emphasis on performances in preseason games before making any roster decisions.
"Every time I get on the field, it's important," Robinson told reporters after the game. "It's a tough competition and I know every time I get out there I've got to take advantage of every opportunity I get."
The Redskins on Thursday were playing without their two top receivers in Pierre Garçon (hamstring) and DeSean Jackson (ankle), both of whom were given time off to rest minor injuries.
Getting reps with the first-team offense to start the game, Robinson almost started off the game with a bang on the Redskins' very first drive of the game, but couldn't quite come down in bounds in the end zone with a pass from quarterback Robert Griffin.
Robinson would have plenty of other chances, however.
With backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in the game late in the first quarter and the Redskins driving down the field, Gruden elected to go with a five-receiver set from the New England 10-yard line.
Cousins, in the shotgun formation, took the snap and had a quick three-step drop before firing a bullet to Robinson, who ran a perfect slant pattern to his left to split New England defensive backs Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon, hauling in the pass in the end zone for the score.
Robinson had the opportunity to do a little dance while his two defenders, who had collided, picked themselves up off the grass wondering what had just happened.
"Time of the play was perfect," Robinson said. "Kirk made a great throw and I ran a good route and I got open for him and I made the catch."
Cousins credited both Gruden for the call and Robinson for the execution.
"It was a good play call by Coach," the third-year quarterback out of Michigan State said. "It put us in a good situation to be successful, and all I had to do was put the ball in Aldrick's chest."
Robinson has established himself as a credible deep threat in the league, but Thursday's game displayed his hard work to improve as a route runner, as well.
Case in point: the Redskins were in a rut, backed up to their own 1-yard line at about the 12-minute mark in the second quarter. On 2nd and 10, Cousins dropped back, faked a handoff to running back Chris Thompson before finding Robinson, who had executed another perfect slant route – this time to his right – around the 14-yard line. The play resulted in a 23-yard reception and a first down.
"As you can see tonight, I can run routes and catch the ball," Robinson said. "Consistency is key and I'm still trying to work on that."
Robinson has learned that speed is an asset in the NFL, but versatility keeps your name on the roster.
"You want to be known as an all-around receiver," he said. "You don't want to be a one-trick pony in this league."