Brian Robinson spends a lot of time looking back at last season. He has every right to do so, because despite getting shot and missing the first four games, it was a strong start to his NFL career.
It took some time for Robinson to regain the momentum he had built during training camp, but there was no doubt by the time the 2022 campaign was over that he was the Washington Commanders' primary backfield threat. He ended up leading the team in carries (202) and yards (797) while scoring four total touchdowns.
Robinson doesn't reminisce for nostalgia's sake alone, though. He still feels like he has much more to give, and he views his rookie year as a stepping off point for what is to come in his career.
"The only reason I can reflect off it is so I can see...all the things I need to do going into the new year," he said.
Robinson didn't feel like himself last season, even when he was cleared to get back on the field, but there were flashes of what he could be.
Four days after his debut against the Tennessee Titans in Week 5, he was one of the Commanders' main offensive weapons against the Chicago Bears with 60 yards and the game-winning touchdown. The following week, he was bowling through Green Bay Packers defenders on the way to a 73-yard performance. And against the Philadelphia Eagles, he was the driving force for the Commanders' victory with 26 carries for 86 yards.
"This was one of those games and we were going to run the ball and he loaded up for it and he came with the right mindset and got after it," head coach Ron Rivera said the Tuesday after the 32-21 win over the Eagles.
The constant pounding against the wall that was the Eagles' defensive front worked that night, but Robinson wants to show that there's more to his skill set besides plowing up the middle. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry -- tied for 37th among all ball carriers -- and his DVOA was 39th among running backs with at least 100 carries.
Robinson's longest play of the season: 24 yards. This year, he's out to prove that he can turn those power runs into bigger chunks of yardage.
"The biggest step for me is really being comfortable and knowing my abilities to get on the second and third levels and trusting in my speed and footwork to make moves on the second and third level and also run past defenders," Robinson said. "That's another level of my game I can easily level up."
Robinson spent most of his time trying to get his legs back under him last year while also adapting to the speed of the NFL as well as maintaining his strength to break tackles. Now that he's fully recovered from his injury, reaching his second and third gear is one of his primary concerns.
"I just gotta keep taking the steps and trusting in the process that I'm trying to put myself back in that position," Robinson said.
Robinson has a new teacher who can help him do that, too, in the form of Eric Bieniemy. In addition to bringing a new offensive scheme with him to Washington, Bieniemy also has years of experience with running backs, both as a player and coach.
That relationship is progressing well so far.
"It's easy for me to listen to him based off of his experience and the fact that we can relate to each other based off playing the same position," Robinson said. "I think that's a little bit more of an advantage for the running backs on our team."
Robinson does have some goals for himself. He wants to rush for 1,000 yards -- "That's the minimum," he said -- and considering he was only 202 yards away from hitting that mark last year, despite missing five games, that's a reachable milestone.
No matter how many yards he ends up getting in his second season, Robinson already has a way of describing the 2023 season.