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Behind Enemy Lines: Colts must limit James Robinson to win in Jacksonville

Player Spotlight: James Robinson

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of an overtime thriller with the Houston Texans (who would’ve thought), the Indianapolis Colts will be looking to rebound this Sunday in Jacksonville against the Jaguars. The history here speaks for itself, as the Colts haven’t defeated the Jags on the road since 2014.

This behind enemy lines series will focus on an individual opponent each week who is worthy of special attention. This week, we discuss a player who has become familiar to Colts fans since he arrived in Jacksonville, running back James Robinson.

Jacksonville is coming off a very close loss to the Washington Commanders and will feel confident heading into this matchup after seeing the Colts struggle against the Texans.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

James Robinson played the first game of his career against the Indianapolis Colts two years ago when the Jags upset the Colts on opening day. Looking at the stats, he didn’t pop off the page with 62 yards on 16 carries, an average of 3.9 ypc, but anyone who watched that game saw his impact. The undrafted free agent from Rockford, Illinois, repeatedly smashed between the tackles wearing out the Colts defensive line and frustrating a Colts defense that has a reputation as a solid run defender under the coaching of defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. His statistical production looked better when his one catch went for 28 yards.

The next time the Colts met Mr. Robinson was last season in a November home game, where the Colts defeated the Jaguars 23-17. Robinson saw a little more success in that outing, with 57 yards on only 12 carries with a touchdown. He was also part of the passing game and had four receptions for 27 yards. The Jags use Robinson as a traditional running back and rotate him with Travis Etienne, who is more of the do-it-all back they put in motion and line up all over the place. Robinson is a classic downhill runner with power and good vision who stresses your linebackers to be physical.

While we don’t have much data on how new coach Doug Pederson intends to use him, we see he was very effective in Week 1, averaging 6 ypc and scoring two touchdowns, one rushing, and one receiving. He scored off a play-action pass where he leaked out into the flat, and the other was a toss play that he made a beautiful cutback on to get into the end zone. This will have to be a big game for the Colts linebackers. Shaq Leonard was one of the top off-ball linebackers in the NFL last season against the run, and it would be huge to have him back in a matchup like this.

Whether he’s back or not, Bobby Okereke, Zaire Franklin, and the guys up front have to find a way to beat up this Jaguars offensive line that is average at best. The Colts did a fine job against the run last week, only allowing 77 yards rushing on 28 attempts. The Jaguars will try to pound James Robinson early and often to open things up for second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The Colts mustn’t allow him to see success on early downs to keep the Jags out of 3rd and manageable situations. If the Colts can slow down James Robinson, I think they will win this game convincingly. That is a big if after the curse of slow starts appeared real with a Week 1 tie in Houston.