Can New Orleans Saints RB Khiry Robinson Be the Next Curtis Martin?

BJ Kissel@bkissel7Contributor IJune 28, 2014

New Orleans Saints running back Khiry Robinson (29) carries during minicamp at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La., Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The comparison was made by one of the few people qualified to make such a bold claim. 

Khiry Robinson as the next Curtis Martin. 

Long time NFL coach and executive Bill Parcells, who coached Martin in stints with the New England Patriots and New York Jets during his Hall of Fame career, made that statement in a conversation with New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton before the Saints playoff game last January. 

Revealed by Fox analyst John Lynch, Payton, who is a former pupil of Parcells, said that his former mentor called him and questioned why Robinson wasn't getting the ball more, via  

August 4, 2012; Canton, OH, USA; New York Jets former running back Curtis Martin (left) is presented his bust by former coach Bill Parcells during the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies at Fawcett Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeC

“Parcells called this week and said, ‘Sean what are you doing? You’ve got Curtis Martin right in front of your eyes, and you’re not doing anything with him. Give him the ball.’” 

He was obviously talking about Robinson, the undrafted rookie from West Texas A&M who burst onto the scene in his final three games last season.

In those final three games, two being in the playoffs, Robinson had 33 carries for 152 yards, good for a 4.6 yards per carry average, while also adding a touchdown. 

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Martin, who ranks as the NFL's fourth all-time leading rusher with 14,101 yards, provides a pretty high standard for Robinson, who's just entering his second year in the NFL and has just 75 career carries. 

Lynch followed up the comparison by clarifying that it's a comparison, not a projection, via

“Look, we aren’t making him a Hall of Famer. But there’s a style that resembles each other,” Lynch said. “He’s patient, he darts, he typically finds the right hole. And he’s very quick once he makes a decision to get downfield.”

It's one of the first things you'll notice after watching Robinson on film. 

Once he makes a decision on where he's going and picks a downhill running lane, he's incredibly difficult to tackle. 

It's this style of running and ability to get down the field quickly once he's committed to a lane that has people making the Martin comparisons. 

He's always falling forward and rarely goes down easy. 

If you're a football coach at the youth or high school level and want to show kids examples of what running the football with effort looks like, Robinson is a great example.

It's not fair for a comparison to turn into an expectation, especially before a player has really even made a name for himself in NFL circles, but people like comparisons because it makes it much easier to understand a player's skill set. 

Robinson possesses the size, strength, speed and athleticism to be an every-down starting NFL running back.

Pro Football Focus (subscription required) had Robinson with a 2.6 yards per carry after contact average, also forcing 15 missed tackles in just 75 rushing attempts as a rookie.

The game wasn't too fast or intimidating for the former West Texas A&M Buffalo, who used his natural skills to make a name for himself after being overlooked by every NFL team during the draft. 

These skills that helped Robinson garner these expectations heading into his second NFL season are the same ones that helped him stick on with the Saints as an undrafted free agent. 

But hoping to continue the momentum he built at the end of last season, Robinson believes he's developed over the course of the past year, via Katherine Terrell of

"Last year I was basically just running, hoping I went the right way," Robinson said. "Now I feel like I've got the concepts down."

In order for Robinson to take on a larger role with the Saints this season, which is an opportunity available with Darren Sproles now in Philadelphia, Robinson will need to prove that he's capable of understanding everything that goes into being a NFL starting running back.

That means showing Payton how far he's developed after his first season, via Katherine Terrell of Payton said:

You see him, just from an assignment standpoint, understanding the protections much quicker. That took a while for him last year....I think (with) a year under his belt, the overall understanding of all the things he needs to do at the running back position is a lot better. I think a young player, a running back in particular, the running part of it is something that would be the easier part.

There are plenty of pundits and analysts that believe Robinson is going to take that next step. 

Chris Wesseling of put Robinson at No. 19 in his "Making the Leap" series, which ranks the Top 25 players he believes will make a larger impact in 2014. 

(Robinson) forced more missed tackles on 76 regular-season snaps than Ray Rice did on 730, per Pro Football Focus' metrics....Robinson also led the league in forced missed tackles during the preseason and averaged more postseason yards after contact per attempt than Marshawn Lynch and LeGarrette Blount.

Robinson heads into the 2014 season in a competition for snaps at running back with veterans Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas. 

Ingram, who will be a free agent after the upcoming season after the Saints declined his fifth-year option, carried the ball 108 times for 532 yards and two touchdowns last season. He missed five regular-season games with injuries. 

Thomas, who agreed to a pay cut in 2014 after signing a two-year extension, understands part of his role as a veteran running back is to help bring along younger players, much like Deuce McAllister did for him when he was coming into the league, via Mike Triplett of

Even though they're competing for opportunities in a crowded backfield, Thomas said he takes pride in "helping these younger dudes out and trying to show them the way." 

"I see myself as one of the vets, almost like the same way when I came in and Deuce was here," Thomas said. "So I feel like me and him just switched spots."

Robinson is one of the players who is benefitting from that attitude from Thomas, who looks to be the one sharing most of the carries with Robinson over the next few seasons in New Orleans. 

While the comparisons to one of the greatest running backs in NFL history might be a humbling experience, Robinson doesn't seem to take anything for granted, via Katherine Terrell of

"I'm not content yet," Robinson said. "I'm not a starter or anything like that. I can't get comfortable."

If you're looking for a breakout candidate at running back or a fantasy sleeper for this upcoming season, there's no reason to look any farther than Robinson. 

He's got the right attitude, and he already showed us last season what he can do when given the opportunity to carry the ball.

Now with Payton's praise of his development in understanding the playbook and his responsibilities, you have to believe he'll make a considerable impact for the Saints offense this season. 

Could he be the next Curtis Martin? 

Sure, but let's check back in five years just to be safe. 


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