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The Day After: Mixing it up with Denard Robinson

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars put quarterback Blake Bortles into the lineup in part to help spark the offense. It looks like they are trying the same thing with Denard Robinson.

The second-year player from Michigan has improved his ball security significantly now that the nerve damage in his hand has healed completely. That, plus his athleticism and open-field skills, have earned him more playing time. However, it was a bit of a surprise to see him used as the Jaguars’ main back in Sunday’s 33-14 loss in San Diego.

According to ProFootballFocus, Robinson played a career-high 36 snaps, which was one less than Gerhart (21) and Jordan Todman (16) combined. He ran for 25 yards and caught three passes for 7 yards, but all of his catches came behind the line of scrimmage, and PFF reports that Robinson actually had 21 yards after the catch.

Gerhart did go to the bench after fumbling on his first carry, but returned during the Jaguars’ second possession and finished with 32 yards rushing on 10 carries and had one catch for 8 yards. Despite the discrepancy in playing time, coach Gus Bradley said Gerhart has not fallen behind Robinson on the depth chart.

"Just trying to utilize everybody’s strengths," Bradley said. "You see the receivers move around, too. We’re trying to utilize their strengths. That’s been kind of our philosophy."

Robinson is still learning the position, and told me earlier in the week it’s certainly different from running the ball as a quarterback at Michigan, especially when it wasn’t a designed quarterback run. As a running back, the defense is accounting for him on every play, and he has to get through the line of scrimmage before he can use his elusiveness. When he ran the ball as a quarterback he was usually evading slower linemen at first, and then had open-field situations.

That is backed up by his stats against the Chargers. He had three carries in which he ran the ball into the middle of the line of scrimmage, and he gained a total of minus-3 yards. He had 28 yards on his six carries outside the tackles, an average of 4.7 per carry.

The Jaguars have to use Robinson inside at times, otherwise it would be obvious that the play was going to be on the edge every time he entered the game, but using him on the edge maximizes his impact.

More thoughts on the day after ...

It’s logical to go with a short passing attack because of a rookie quarterback, the concerns about the offensive line, and the lack of proven playmakers at receiver. However, throwing the ball downfield is one of Blake Bortles' strengths, along with his ability to extend plays, and Bortles only had 10 throws that traveled more than 10 yards in the air against the Chargers. He completed 24 of the 27 that traveled 10 yards or less for 158 yards, but two of those incompletions were intercepted. The offense stalled in the second half in part because the Chargers got pressure and sat on the shorter routes.

A stat that might have slipped by everyone on Sunday: The Jaguars converted as many third downs on offense against the Chargers as they have in the previous three games combined. They went 9-for-14 (64 percent) on Sunday and were 9-for-37 coming into the game. The 24.3 percent conversion rate was last in the NFL.

The defense gave up six pass plays of 20 or more yards on Sunday, including three touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, that is nothing new. They rank last in the NFL with 25 pass completions of 20 or more yards allowed, and opponents have completed 25 of 45 attempts for a league-high 687 yards and six touchdowns.