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Mark Ingram: Brian Robinson a 'sleeper back' that creates high value

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Brian Robinson Jr., the newest member of the Washington Commanders backfield, is the latest in a long line of Alabama running backs, and most of them have put together decorated careers.

Of the 11 Crimson tide rushers that have been drafted since 2010, 12-year veteran Mark Ingram is one of the most successful. He's third among all active running backs with 7,878 yards, and he's a three-time Pro Bowler with 75 total touchdowns.

It's a good sign if you're able to impress Ingram, and after a successful finale to his college career, Robinson has received his blessing as he prepares for the NFL.

"I just appreciate his mindset and his commitment over the years," Ingram said on a Twitter Spaces segment hosted by the NFL ahead of the draft.

Robinson was a contributor for Alabama from the moment he arrived on campus in 2017, but he wasn't the success he became in his fifth year. On top of playing behind Najee Harris and Bo Scarborough, he needed to improve his skillset and rise the standard that Alabama demands from its players.

His time as a backup allowed him to absorb as much knowledge as possible from the players in front of him.

"It was difficult sometimes," Robinson said after he was drafted. "But I was playing next to a lot of talented guys. Just seeing those guys, kind of develop also and take their talent to the next level, just kind of made me appreciate being in the room with those guys and competing with those guys every year and just having to stick it out and be patient."

Robinson knew that if he waited for his opportunity, things would work out for him, and sure enough, that turned out to be true. He rushed for 1,341 yards in 2021, nearly matching his production in the previous four seasons combined, and scored 14 touchdowns.

Robinson emulated much of what is expected from Alabama running backs, meaning he made a habit of running people over. He had 79 broken tackles in 2021, which was three more than Derrick Henry and eight more than Harris had in a single season.

That kind of running style has earned Ingram's respect.

"[He was] a huge part of what Alabama had to do to get to the national championship, running the football, catching the football, picking up pass protection" Ingram said. "That's what you look for out of a back. He runs physical, runs tough, he can break tackles, he does great in pass protection, has good hands coming out of the backfield.

"I think he's a 'sleeper back,'" Ingram added. "And if he goes in Day 2, I think that's a high value for any team."

Julie Donaldson recently sat down with head coach Ron Rivera to discuss the 2022 draft class. Here's a look at what he had to say about every pick.

That statement proved to be prophetic, because that's exactly what happened when the Commanders took Robinson with the No. 98 overall pick. Players like Jonathan Allen, whose college career at Alabama wrapped up a year before Robinson arrived, can appreciate what the running back brings to the team.

"I think Brian Robinson is a testament to what we do at Alabama," Allen said. "One of the biggest parts of a guy being successful or not is his mentality and his mindset. Is he mature enough to handle everything that comes with it, to do what he has to do with all the free time?

"When you look at Bama guys, like we don't get in trouble, you know what kind of work ethic we got, you know what kind of mental toughness we got and fortitude," Allen added.

The Commanders have plans for Robinson and his ability to get yards after contact and run between the tackles. They intend to use him in a way that complements Antonio Gibson, giving them a legitimate one-two punch similar to what Ron Rivera had with the Carolina Panthers in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

It's a responsibility that Robinson is more than capable of taking on.

"He got that dog in him," Ingram said. "You can't teach that."

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