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Brian Robinson Jr. eager to learn from Austin Ekeler, Anthony Lynn

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Brian Robinson Jr. is in the best shape he's been heading into his third season, and that could mean trouble for the rest of the NFL.

He's also just 25 years old with plenty more to learn, both about the league and his own capabilities. He's in luck, though, because the Washington Commanders have provided him with decades of experience that he can rely on in 2024.

Like many positions on the Commanders' roster, the running back group has gone through significant changes to match head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Adam Peters' vision. Antonio Gibson is in New England, and Randy Jordan accepted a job with the Tennessee Titans. In their place are Austin Ekeler, one of just seven players in NFL history to record at least 30 rushing and receiving touchdowns, and Anthony Lynn, a former head coach who has coached running backs for a combined 18 years.

Robinson, who has led the Commanders in rushing yards over the past two seasons, is eager to soak up as much information as possible from them.

"Austin is...a great leader, a great competitor, a great veteran," Robinson told the media May 22. "He's a guy that young guys can easily lean on, ask questions."

Robinson was one of the reasons Ekeler was interested in signing with Washington in the first place. Ekeler has been one of the most productive and versatile backs in the NFL for most of his career, amassing 8,239 scrimmage yards and 69 total touchdowns, but one of his best seasons came when he was working in tandem with Melvin Gordon. He recorded 1,550 total yards in 2019, including a career-high 993 receiving yards on 92 receptions.

He will have something similar with Robinson in Washington.

"It was an opportunity to come in and be this two-back backfield," Ekeler said in March. "That really was intriguing to me."

Though versatility is not a foreign concept to Robinson, Ekeler does take it to another level that few have reached in recent years. He's seventh among active running backs in yards from scrimmage with almost half of his production coming as a pass-catcher. Thirty of his 69 touchdowns are receiving scores.

Robinson knows he can learn about how he can get the most from his touches, and more, from Ekeler.

"I feel like Austin has been a great addition to our team as far as [being] a leader," Robinson said.

Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders taking the field for the second week of OTAs.

Upgrading his versatility would be a smart move for Robinson, because that's a skill set Lynn values in his players. Lynn was just starting to dive into film on his new players when he and the rest of the assistant coaches spoke back in February, but he was already familiar with Robinson from studying him in college.

Ekeler can attest to how much of an asset Lynn could be for Robinson. Lynn was his head coach for the first four seasons of his career, and while Lynn had other duties besides leading the running back room, he did give Ekeler a chance as an undrafted free agent. Ekeler rewarded that faith by averaging 6.6 yards per touch from 2017-20.

But Ekeler isn't the only running back Lynn has helped in his coaching career. Fred Taylor hit a career-high with 1,572 yards in 2003; Marion Barber' 14 rushing touchdowns in 2006 were his most in a single season; former Jets running back Shonn Green was at his best working with Lynn, racking up 2,117 yards combined in 2011 and 2012; D'Andre Swift improved in his second season, rushing for 617 yards on 151 attempts in 2021 with Lynn as his offensive coordinator; and Christian McCaffrey led the league in rushing yards in his first full season with the 49ers after being traded by the Carolina Panthers.

Robinson is next on the list.

"I know he has a lot of knowledge [and] experience," Robinson said. "He's played at this level, and he has a lot of tips and things he can leave with us that we can take out to the practice field."

Robinson is almost two years removed from being shot twice in the leg and having to recover his strength. Despite dealing with those limitations, he's been one of the Commanders' best weapons, leading the team with 1,101 scrimmage yards in 2023 and ranking third in the category in 2022.

Now feeling better than he has in years and with two experienced voices guiding him, Robinson has high expectations for himself.

"We're just getting started for a long season to come," Robinson said. "I'm sure I will continue to see my game translate over time."

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