5 things to know about new Patriots running back James Robinson


Robinson set a record for most yards from scrimmage (1,414) for an undrafted rookie during the 2020 season.

James Robinson had 425 rushing yards and 11 receptions in 2022. Winslow Townson/AP Images

The Patriots reportedly added another intriguing option to their backfield in free agency on Wednesday.

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, New England has signed running back James Robinson to a two-year contract worth up to $8 million. He might have some injury issues, but Robinson could be a powerful weapon in New England, especially if he’s paired with Rhamondre Stevenson.

Here are five things to know about the Patriots’ latest offseason pickup:

Robinson was a record rookie with the Jaguars.

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Despite a productive college career at Illinois State, Robinson was undrafted in 2020, eventually signing with Jacksonville as a free agent.

But the power back paid instant dividends in his rookie campaign. He rushed for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns, while catching 49 passes for 344 yards and three scores.

Robinson became just the fifth undrafted rookie since 1967 to record more than 1,000 scrimmage yards – joining Phillip Lindsay (2018), LeGarrette Blount (2010), Dominic Rhodes (2001) and Clark Gaines (1976).

His 1,414 total scrimmage yards eventually set a new NFL record for an undrafted rookie, with Robinson ranked 100th on the 2021 NFL Top 100 Players list.

Robinson continued to shred defenses on the ground and in the air in 2021. In 14 games, Robinson added 989 additional scrimmage yards and scored eight more touchdowns for Jacksonville.

When healthy, Robinson has proven to be an effective dual-threat fullback capable of consuming a lot of yardage.

Unfortunately …

Robinson has been hampered by injuries lately.

Robinson’s promising 2021 season ended on an unfortunate note as he tore his Achilles tendon in a Week 16 game against the Jets in December.

Despite the late season schedule and the severity of such illness, Robinson managed to get back on the grid nine months later.

Robinson was active for the Jags’ Week 1 game against the Commanders and ended up playing seven games with Jacksonville in 2022.

However, Robinson failed to gain much traction upon his return from such a major injury. He gained 340 rushing yards and caught nine passes with the Jaguars before eventually being traded to the Jets in October.

This stint in New York did not yield better results for Robinson, who only played four more games with Gang Green the rest of the year.

Between the Jaguars and Jets, the 24-year-old had 425 rushing yards and 11 receptions in 2022 but was not introduced by New York earlier this week.

New England hopes another year out of that Achilles injury will lead to strong results for Robinson, who looked like a Pro-Bowl talent during his early years in Jacksonville.

Robinson adds a much-needed wrinkle to the New England offense.

Even though Robinson’s frame (5-foot-9, 220 pounds) fits the profile of a traditional rush-and-pound fullback, he was a reliable receiving threat in his early years with the Jags.

The Patriots tend to prioritize depth at running back, and especially value options in the backfield that can gain ground in the air.

Robinson fits the bill, with the versatile offensive cog reeling off 80 catches in his first two pro seasons.

These numbers have dropped significantly in 2022 (11 catches in 11 games). But if Robinson can regain some of that quick bursting ability two years after his injury, he can serve as another reliable target for Mac Jones next season.

He’s probably not a true pass-catching RB like James White, but a healthy Robinson gives New England more tools as they seek a few more playmakers on their roster.

The Patriots need him to lighten Rhamondre Stevenson’s load.

The Patriots aren’t just hoping for a reborn Robinson in 2023.

They’re going to need him to eat a lot of offensive snaps in order to spell their best rushing threat in Rhamondre Stevenson.

Stevenson has become a central point on New England’s offense in 2022, gaining 1,461 total scrimmage yards in 17 games. He was one of the few bright spots in the Patriots’ regressing offensive personnel, but Stevenson was subsequently knocked down by New England during the year.

After gaining 914 rushing yards in New England’s first 14 games, Stevenson has scored just 126 rushing yards in the Patriots’ last three games, getting hit for three fumbles during that streak.

Along with Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris, the Patriots are going to need Robinson and the rest of their running depth to keep Stevenson fresh during another grueling 17-game slate in 2023.

Robinson’s arrival probably spells the end for Damien Harris at Foxborough.

With Robinson reportedly stepping in as New England’s de facto replacement behind Stevenson, that likely means Damien Harris will be playing elsewhere in 2023.

The 2019 third-round pick featured flashes throughout his four seasons in New England, particularly during a 2021 campaign where he recorded 1,061 yards from scrimmage. But Harris was limited to just 11 games (nine starts) last season due to various injuries, with his total yardage dropping to 559.

You could argue that Robinson has the same injury issues as Harris going forward. But much like New England opting for JuJu Smith-Schuster over Jakobi Meyers, the Patriots could favor Robinson’s higher playing and playing abilities in that position.


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