Washington Commanders assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is known for helping direct the best NFL offenses in recent memory, but his roots start at the running back position.
Aside from being an NFL running back for nine seasons himself, much of Bieniemy's coaching career has been dedicated to getting the most out of his players, from Maurice Jones-Drew to Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles. All three of those players had standout seasons with him, so Bieniemy's resume shows that he knows the position better than most.
Brian Robinson, who led the Commanders with 797 rushing yards, is one of the running backs who gets to work with Bieniemy next. He is still in the process of evaluating the offense, but Bieniemy is already impressed with what he has heard about the second-year pro.
When asked about his impressions of Robinson, Bieniemy used one word: "resiliency."
"He's a man that overcame a situation and he played, which is unreal and says a lot about the man, says a lot about his character," Bieniemy said.
The situation Bieniemy referred to when talking to reporters after his introductory press conference is when Robinson sustained multiple gunshot wounds in northeast Washington, D.C. The injury kept Robinson sidelined for the first four games of the season, but he did not experience any major damage to his ligaments. Robinson had successful surgery and was at the facility days after the incident.
It took some time for Robinson to get back up to speed after impressing his coaches in training camp, but he eventually became the Commanders' primary back and often helped fuel the offense during the team's 6-1 run. Moments like powering forward for a one-yard touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles (he got 26 carries in that 32-21 victory) and bowling over Atlanta Falcons defensive backs on his way to the end zone were reminders that Washington was right to use a third-round pick on him.
"I'm starting to get more comfortable in my second level play," Robinson said after the Falcons game. "Just getting up on the second level and making a second level move. At first it was just kind of like get me that pump to get back up on that second level, but now I want to take that next step and play on the second level and finish on the second level."
The workload falls in line with what Rivera told Robinson when he was drafted.
"Coach Rivera told me that if he brought me in here that he wasn't gonna sit around and let me develop," Robinson said. "He felt that I was ready to come in, ready to play. That was the expectation. That's what I did."
Bieniemy can appreciate the production Robinson had in his rookie year. Robinson is part of a young core that the offensive coordinator is excited to work with. But Bieniemy also wants to be around players who are willing to "strain to finish" and fight for 60 minutes.
It's clear to Bieniemy that Robinson has the tools he is looking for.
"We can praise him for all the things that he's done on the field, but for him to be resilient enough to put himself back in that situation says a lot about his character."