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Brian Robinson Commanders

Brian Robinson Jr Looks Like Commanders’ Top RB

  • Justin Melo
  • October 14, 2022
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Washington Commanders rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr. received the start in Thursday night’s primetime victory over the Chicago Bears. It marks the official start of the Robinson Jr. era in Washington’s backfield. 

Robinson Jr. has officially surpassed former Commanders starter Antonio Gibson less than one week after making his triumphant return from gunshot wounds suffered in an attempted robbery against him. Robinson Jr. made his mark by scoring the game-winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Robinson Jr. looked explosive, decisive, and powerful despite the pedestrian stat line.

Robinson Jr. found precious little room to operate throughout the course of the contest. He gained 60 yards on 17 carries (3.5 yards per carry), but he out-snapped Gibson 27-15 and out-touched him 17-8. It showcases growth after Robinson Jr. earned 18 snaps in his NFL debut against the Tennessee Titans in Week 5. On Thursday, Robinson Jr. was on the field for 47% of the Commanders’ offensive plays.

Through two contests, Robinson Jr. has rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He’s averaging just 3.15 yards per carry. Washington’s offensive line continues to struggle with injury and underwhelming play.

Washington’s coaching staff seems committed to Robinson Jr., but it’s worth monitoring Gibson’s usage going forward. Gibson rushed for 35 yards on just five attempts. He averaged a team-high 7.0 yards per carry (minimum five carries) and claimed Washington’s longest gain of the day (18 yards). Gibson’s previous ineffectiveness is what cracked the door open for Robinson Jr. in the first place. Prior to Thursday’s fruitful showing, Gibson had gained just 179 yards on 56 carries (3.19 yards per carry) this season. Gibson was considerably more efficient against the Bears. Gibson isn’t backing down without a fight.

The presence of J.D. McKissic further muddies this backfield. McKissic actually earned the second-most snaps among all Commanders ball carriers on Thursday. McKissic saw 17 snaps, which accounted for 30% of Washington’s offensive plays. McKissic saw just two carries for 20 yards but ran routes on 46% of his snaps, compared to just 25% for Gibson and 21% for Robinson Jr. (who didn’t see a single passing-game target), per Draft Sharks. Game script largely favored Robinson Jr. throughout a tightly-contested game on Thursday, but McKissic will continue eating into his snaps when the Commanders are trailing and forced to pass with more consistency.

The No. 98 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, one may argue Robinson Jr. earned this start following his dominant preseason showings. In two exhibition contests, Robinson Jr. totaled 72 yards and a touchdown on 16 touches. He showcased the same juice that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of Alabama (First-Team All-SEC).

The writing was on the wall the moment Commanders general manager Martin Mayhew drafted Robinson Jr. with a top-100 selection. He scored a crucial touchdown on Thursday, but more consistency is desired. This is Brian Robinson Jr.’s backfield to lose going forward, but he’ll need to string together more effective showings if he hopes to fend off challenges from McKissic and Gibson.