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5 clips: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

A shifty back who forces a lot of missed tackles

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Kansas v Texas
Bijan Robinson
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders declined Josh Jacobs’ fifth-year option this offseason, leaving the door open for them to take a running back in next year’s NFL Draft. Said back could be Texas’ Bijan Robinson, who has been getting more hype this summer than any other draftable player at the position.

Robinson currently ranks fifth on NFL Mock Draft Database’s big board, eighth on The Draft Network’s and 18th on Pro Football Focus’. Draft guru Dane Brugler even had him going 27th overall and as the only first-round running back in Brugler’s initial 2023 NFL mock draft.

Part of the reason the Longhorn is getting so much love right now is that he forced an impressive 79 missed tackles on 195 rushing attempts last season. That was enough to tie Brian Robinson Jr. — the Washington Commanders’ third-round pick — for the third-most in college football and was just 10 fewer than Kenneth Walker, who led the country and was taken in the second round by the Seattle Seahawks.

To add more context, the Texas product had 76 fewer carries than Robinson Jr. and 67 fewer than Walker. So, he was able to make defenders miss at a higher rate than two of the top backs in last year’s draft class.

What makes Robinson so shifty and hard to bring down is his change of direction, which instantly stands out on film.

We’ll get our first example of Robinson’s biggest strength in the clip above.

Texas runs a stretch zone and Oklahoma State does a good job of flowing to the outside, but no one covers the alley down the hash marks. Robinson sees this and goes from east/west to north/south in about two steps to help capitalize on the over pursuing defense.

He also does a good job of kicking it into a second gear after making the cut and stems the run to the outside to get the backside safety – No. 25 – to open his hips to the sideline. That sets up the cut back to the middle of the field and 25 is left diving at ankles trying to make the tackle. To cap the run off, Robinson tacks on about 10 more yards after contact.

This is a textbook run on an outside zone as the Longhorns go from their own 34 to the other side of the 50 and are approaching scoring range.

Stretch zone was one of Texas’ favorite plays to run with Robinson last year and we’ll see another example of why.

They motion the single receiver from the boundary to the other side of the field to bring the corner in the box, and the offensive line does a great job of sealing the defensive end and kicking out the linebacker to give the running back a nice wide lane to run through.

That’s where the back takes over by accelerating and putting one move on the safety to make him miss while subsequently running through the arm tackle. Finally, it’s just a footrace to the endzone and no one is going to catch Robinson, whose grandfather was a track star at Northern Arizona, so speed runs in the family.

How about a nice, tough run to pick up a first down and then some?

The Longhorns go with an inside zone here and Robinson does a good job not panicking and continuing to press the line even with the play side guard getting beat across his face and letting the defensive lineman get penetration. Had Robinson bounced it immediately, he might run himself into a tackle from the unblocked defender – No. 35 – but instead, he’s able to force an arm tackle and run through it to get up the field.

The back then makes another one of his patented cuts to get the safety – No. 12 Greg Eisworth who now plays for the Miami Dolphins – to miss. After that, Robinson still isn’t done as he keeps his pads down and feet pumping to carry just about the entire Iowa State defense on his way to picking up a first down.

Now, I will say that he needs to learn when the play is over and just go down after getting the first as the Cyclones do eventually rip the ball out and recover the fumble for a turnover. But any running backs coach will love this type of effort from their back(s).

Robinson can destroy second and third level defenders’ angles with his jump cuts and we’ll see a perfect example of that on this play.

Again, it’s another stretch zone run from Texas, the only difference is they add a triple option/RPO action to it with wide receiver motioning across the formation on the bubble screen. Robinson gets the rock with his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage and once he finds the hole, he sticks his outside foot in the ground, gets those shoulders turned and starts heading north/south.

He has a lane to the outside that the deep safety is likely going fill, but instead, he uses that as a decoy and has the agility to jump cut and work back to the middle of the field. Look what that does to the safety – No. 24. It forces 24 to stop his feet and almost completely whiff on the tackle attempt.

That safety was playing it perfectly by keeping Robinson on his inside shoulder, until Robinson basically spun the entire field around on him and broke his angle.

Our last clip isn’t the sexiest but it does show off another solid trait of Robinson’s, contact balance.

Texas runs duo where the offensive line is going to work to the backside instead of the play side like we’ve been seeing on the zone runs. The play is designed to hit inside, in the B-gap behind the left guard, No. 78, but Louisiana has the perfect blitz called to take that away.

Robinson sees that and tries to bounce it to the outside, however, the defense has a mismatch with the wide receiver in motion blocking an outside linebacker. The backer is able to get outside leverage on the wideout to take that away from the ball carrier, and the safety comes downhill to fill the D-gap, so it looks like the play is dead, especially with the back stumbling.

But Robinson somehow finds a away to keep his momentum going and feet pumping to be the hammer and not the nail against the safety and break that tackle. He then manages to slip one more tackle from that outside backer and finally gets to the outside to nearly pick up a first down on a play that honestly should have gained one or two yards at most.