Brian Robinson never felt like himself last season after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds a week before the 2022 season. Now that he's fully healthy, he intends to show the Washington Commanders how much he can do for them.
The Commanders already know that Robinson can carry the load for them on the ground. Despite missing the first four games of the season, he led the team in rushing yards on 205 carries, and through performances like his 86 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10, he proved that he can be a problem for defenses.
But Robinson insists that his skill set is more robust, and he intends to show that in Year 2.
"The biggest thing for me [is] I just don't want to be one dimensional and I don't want to be just a power back," Robinson said. "I want to be able to run routes, run down the field, catch the ball with soft hands and continue to grow my game."
The Commanders didn't use Robinson much in the passing game last season, although he did have his moments later in the year. Fans will remember his 14-yard reception against the Atlanta Falcons, which resulted in him plowing through a defensive back before getting into the end zone.
This year, almost all of Robinson's reps in OTAs, minicamp and the first three days of training camp have featured him as a pass-rusher. That's an intentional move by the offensive staff because of how difficult it is to practice running plays without pads.
Not only has Robinson proven that he can function as a pass-catcher, but he's also managed to bring in some of the most impressive receptions in the first week of camp. He had what was perhaps the catch of the day during the first practice by making a one-handed, over-the-shoulder grab with defenders in tight coverage near the sideline.
The following day, he had another catch during 7-on-7 drills near the middle of the field on a pass that was threaded between a defender's hands.
Plays like that are not necessarily a surprise to head coach Ron Rivera. He believes Washington got "a good picture" of what Robinson could be near the end of the season, and what he's seen now is "a little more mature" version of the running back.
"He's still growing, and they've still got a ways to go but there's a lot of promise," Rivera said. "There's a lot of excitement right now."
Washington leaned into the running game last year as Robinson got healthier, and the team benefitted from having him as their feature back. The team rushed for at least 100 yards in all but three games once Robinson returned to the active roster, and that elevated them into playoff contention with a 6-1 record from Weeks 6-12.
That might change with Eric Bieniemy bringing his West Coast-centric system along with him as he takes over the play-calling duties in Washington. With that said, Bieniemy is a Robinson fan.
"I love what he brings to the table," Bieniemy said. "I love the emotion and the excitement and the energy that he brings."
And Robinson wants to make it clear to Bieniemy that he's willing to do whatever is asked of him.
"Whatever I'm called on to do, I'll be ready for," Robinson said. "I can do anything in the offensive playbook. Like I said, no limits on what I can do. And I let the coaches establish the role based off of how they use us and, you know, I just prepare for it every day."
The Washington Commanders continued Week 1 of training camp with fans in the stands and Kevin Durant in attendance. Check out the top photos from the day. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
Of course, much of Robinson's value will be determined by what he does in the ground game. Robinson had some explosive games in the second half of the 2022 season, including 105 yards against the Falcons and 96 yards against the Giants, but he was at his most valuable when he was fighting for yards between the tackles to keep drives alive. He was one of the most effective weapons Washington had in that category with 52 of his touches resulting in first downs.
That will always be part of Robinson's game, but now he is looking to break off runs that help the Commanders flip the field.
"The next step for me as a runner is just being able to...make those big explosive plays," Robinson said. "Like 50-, 60-yard runs, touchdowns. Break off big runs to show people that I can run on the second and third levels. I can run past guys, and I can run for a lot of yards."
Being shot a week before the season began set Robinson back from the progress he had made for the previous month, and he spent the rest of the season working to get back to that level again. Through the first week of camp, Robinson looks like he's back to his old self, and he's excited to build on that for Week 1 and beyond.
"I expect to have a great camp, and I expect to roll into the season with all the momentum in the world."