After a lot of optimism in the offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars have had a less-than-spectacular start to the regular season, sitting at 0-2. One of the biggest factors for their lack of success, including surrendering a 17-point halftime lead against the Philadelphia Eagles, has been the inability to move the ball on offense, specifically the run game.
Free-agent acquisition Toby Gerhart has had almost no luck running the ball. Through two games, he has 50 yards on 25 carries, including just eight yards on seven carries against the Washington Redskins. Worse yet, he suffered a sprained ankle in the first game of the season that severely limited his impact last weekend.
What is puzzling is the player who was expected to provide the lightning to Gerhart's thunder has been almost nonexistent this season. Denard Robinson has just three carries for eight yards. This is something that needs to change if the Jaguars are going to find any success in the run game or in the regular season, for that matter.
Most of the blame for this ineptitude in the run game can be contributed to poor offensive line play. This young, inexperienced line has failed to open up running lanes regardless of where they run the ball. Here is a breakdown of Gerhart's runs so far this season:
|Toby Gerhart Running Breakdown|
|Location of Run||Carries||Yards||YPC|
|Middle of Line (A and B Gaps)||11||20||1.8|
|Off Tackle and Stretch Plays||12||22||1.8|
|Film Study on NFL Game Rewind|
As expected, most of the runs have been either up the middle or off the tackle. This staleness in the running game has allowed opposing defenses to flood the box and often hit Gerhart in the backfield before he can build up a head of steam. This is an area Robinson would improve as he offers more options coming out of the backfield.
Robinson has the speed and agility to excel on the edge, something Gerhart doesn't have. Robinson can outrun defenders and turn the corner in order to gain yards on the perimeter. He isn't quite big enough to withstand a lot of touches up the middle, but his shiftiness would help him navigate the blockers on draw plays, something offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has yet to call with Gerhart.
Robinson also provides a quick option in the passing game, something he has been working on all summer. Given the opportunity, Robinson could be a Darren Sproles-like weapon for the Jaguars. He would give Chad Henne an easy checkdown option coming out of the backfield.
With his set of skills, Fisch could use more split-back sets with both Robinson and Gerhart in the backfield in order to keep defenses on their toes. That way, if the defense is crowding the line of scrimmage, Henne could hand the ball to Robinson and get him on the perimeter. If it softens the interior, Henne would hand it off to Gerhart to hammer up the middle.
Of course, none of this really matters if the Jaguars can't fix their run blocking. They are currently fielding quite possibly the worst offensive line in the NFL right now. The right side is especially weak with two rookies manning the center and right guard spots. If Jacksonville can't get this issue worked out, its entire offense will remain stunted.
As for Robinson specifically, his speed will help wear defenders down, allowing Gerhart to more easily break tackles when carrying the ball. Robinson can provide a spark for an offense severely lacking one right now as long as he gets an opportunity. If the Jaguars can get him the ball just 10-15 times per game, it could do wonders for this offense.