Brian Robinson Jr. had several standout traits during his five seasons at the University of Alabama, and most of them centered around his physicality.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. That's what enticed the Washington Commanders to take Robinson with the No. 98 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. In terms of the Commanders' list of "best players available" when they got on the clock in the third round, Robinson was high on their list because of what he can add to the backfield.
The hope is that his style will add a one-two punch to what Antonio Gibson already brings to the offense.
"Absolute physical unit" is the way NFL.com's Lance Zierlein described Robinson in his draft profile of the running back, and he backed up those claims on a regular basis. According to Pro Football Focus, he had 1,841 yards after contact in his career, which is the fourth-most for an Alabama running back since 2014.
And in his lone season as a starter, he ranked second in the SEC in yards after contact average among running backs with a minimum of 50 carries.
"I mean, young man, 6-2, he's a good sized running back," Rivera said. "You watch him and just the way he handles himself and plays the game. It's a very physical style."
What Robinson's presence does is take some of the load off Gibson's shoulders. Rivera said the third-year back had more of a "slasher, style" but he had to juggle being a downhill threat with operating outside the tackles. Now, Robinson will handle the responsibility of getting the tougher yards, allowing Gibson to use his "deceptive speed."
"Now, we're gonna be able to take that pressure off him, really give him an opportunity to get him out in space," Rivera said. "And that's what he does best. He can make people miss."
But defenders have a hard time bringing down Robinson as well; the only difference is that he runs people over. Robinson forced 79 missed tackles in 2021, which is the most for an Alabama running back since 2014 (he had three more than Derrick Henry and eight more than Najee Harris in a single season).
And one of the best things about his style: he only has three fumbles in 545 career rushing attempts with Alabama.
"Well, when you watch him in a style of running you always notice that the ball is high and tight, and he does a nice job with that," Rivera said.
Robinson did say he chooses to be physical, but there's more that he can add to the Commanders' offense. He can be elusive at the second level -- he was seventh in runs of at least 15 yards -- and he can be of use out of the backfield.
Robinson also knows that he's going to help his new team the most with his toughness.
"Whenever the ball needs to get downhill or I need to lock in on certain protections, and make sure the quarterback's protected," Robinson said. "But I really just see my role is just coming in and being a contributor to short yardage situations, or first and second down situations. Just where I can always be effective and get positive yards and just keep the chains moving."
When Rivera was coaching the Carolina Panthers, he had a similar one-two punch with Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. It led to the Panthers finishing with three top 10 performances in rushing yards with the duo playing together.
There's a chance the Commanders have something similar with Robinson and Gibson.
"We feel really good about who this combination, this tandem can be for us," Rivera said.