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Brian Robinson introduced his physical style to Commanders fans in preseason opener

The Washington Commanders play the Carolina Panthers in week 1 of the NFL’s preseason at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on Aug 13, 2022
The Washington Commanders play the Carolina Panthers in week 1 of the NFL’s preseason at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on Aug 13, 2022

It did not take long for Charles Leno to figure out what the Washington Commanders were getting out Brian Robinson Jr. 

"I could tell right when he got [here] he was going to be a good player," Leno told reporters after the Commanders' 23-21 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers. "We could definitely use him, and he does a really good job for us." 

In a backfield that has a surplus of speed and versatility, Robinson adds something different to Washington's running back room: a classic style centered around old-fashioned physicality. That does not translate well in practice, where contact is regulated, and pads are not worn every day, but the flashes of his potential have been well-received.  

Saturday's game featured Robinson in his game scenario, and the returns were positive once again. He wrapped up the afternoon with eight touches on 11 snaps, recording 41 yards and a touchdown. It was not a large dose of action, but it was enough to provide a glimpse at what he can offer to Washington's running game. 

"I thought Brian showed us why we drafted him," said head coach Ron Rivera."And that's the downhill, physical presence on the inside."

The Commanders have made it clear that their backfield is going to be by committee. Antonio Gibson is the "slasher" that attacks defensive perimeter while J.D. McKissic is the top pass-catching option, leaving Robinson as the change of pace who can run between the tackles.

That would put Robinson as the third back on the unofficial depth chart, but when Washington's starters took the field for their third drive of the game, Robinson found himself in the backfield preparing for the first carry of his professional career.

"I didn't think I was going in as early as I did," Robinson said. "But I knew I was going to get an opportunity, and when my number was called, I was ready."

Robinson's hunch was somewhat correct; in actuality, he was getting several opportunities. His first attempt came on a second-and-10 from Washington's 34-yard line, and he plowed forward for 11 yards.

The ball went to Robinson again on the following play -- an underneath throw from Carson Wentz -- and he navigated his way through blockers for a nine-yard gain. There have been glimpses of Robinson's skills as a pass-catcher in practice. It was a pleasant surprise for the coaching staff, but Robinson has always been confident in that part of his game.

"I feel like I can really catch the ball," Robinson said. "Even though most people wouldn't think that's part of my skill set, I continue to show that I can catch the ball. I was just happy I got the chance to do that."

It took the Commanders 14 plays to march downfield and into Panthers territory; eight of them resulted in touches for Robinson. Most were not the highlights that fans look back on -- they show up as runs that chipped away at yardage on the play-by-play sheet -- but they were examples of Robinson's prowess as a true running back. He runs with good body lean, Rivera said, and helps set a tone for the offensive line.

When Washington faced a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Robinson was one to get the carry. He slipped through a crease on the left side of the offensive line to cap off the 82-yard drive, and when he was done shrugging off defenders, Leno pointed emphatically to Robinson as the crowd cheered.

"He runs hard," Leno said. "He did that at Alabama, that's what he is doing. He does it for us."

The Washington Commanders open the 2022 preseason with a home matchup against the Carolina Panthers at FedExField.

It was difficult for Robinson to explain what it was like to get his first NFL touchdown. He said FedExField "felt like home all over again," and the way he played suggested that Robinson is already settled into his role in the professional ranks.

Comfort is the last thing on Robinson's mind.

"I still don't feel like I've played enough to gain the comfortability that I need to play at this position, but the series that I was in gave me a good feel for what's to come," Robinson said.

And as amazing as getting into the end zone felt to Robinson, he is already looking forward to getting there again.

"I just felt like I'm here now, and I'm here to stay too," he said. "I got a chance to show people who I am, and that there's a lot more to come."

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