Denard Robinson's inexperience at receiver shows, but no one can deny his raw speed

Posted Jan 22, 2013

While Denard Robinson has struggled with some of the technical aspects of playing the receiver position down at the Senior Bowl, he lightning speed shows why some teams are excited about him as a utility player in the NFL.

Denard RobinsonMobile, Ala. - Denard Robinson is wearing the same yellow "no contact" jersey as North team quarterbacks Zac Dysert, Mike Glennon and Ryan Nassib down at the Senior Bowl. But make no mistake; Robinson is not like the other three.

The former Michigan quarterback is playing receiver down at the Senior Bowl in hopes of earning himself a role in the NFL as a utility player.

Robinson is wearing the yellow jersey because he’s off limits for contact as he’s still waiting clearance for contact from a nerve injury to his right elbow suffered during the season.

Robinson is hopeful the white jersey worn by his fellow receivers replaces the yellow one for Wednesday’s practice.

"I think I’ll be cleared tomorrow," Robinson said after practice Tuesday. "I think I’ll be doing everything tomorrow."

He did participate in more one-on-one light contact drills with the defensive backs Tuesday. He said afterward it was an effort to test the injury.

Robinson admitted that he hasn’t played receiver "in a long time" and it shows. He’s practicing with some of the more polished senior receivers in the college game and he looks like a fish out of water at times.

As expected, he’s struggled some running precise routes and had quite a few drops Tuesday.

The Oakland Raiders coaching staff, who is coaching the North team, have Robinson fielding punts, too, which has had mixed results the first two days of practice. He whiffed on his first attempt in the wind on Tuesday, bobbled another one and then fielded his final one perfectly.

"I still have things to work on. I have to get better catching the ball and running routes," Robinson said. "It’s all fun. I just have to continue getting better every day I step on the field.

"I have to learn that once I make that move I have to make sure I rip and get out of it."

While Robinson has struggled with some of the technical aspects of playing the receiver position, there’s no mistaking why some teams are excited about his potential - raw speed.

Robinson consistently separated from defenders in practice because of that speed, which is the one thing he has that can’t be taught.

He put a terrific out-and-up move on Utah State cornerback Will Davis in a one-on-one drill and had to slow down for the ball because he was so far downfield by the time the ball got to him.

Robinson will get better as a receiver, running back, punt returner or whatever other position NFL offensive coordinator can think to put him at the more he does it. There’s a place in the NFL for a player with his speed and open field running ability.

Where’s he’s ultimately drafted in April, and how much he plays as a rookie, will depend on how quickly he picks up some of the finer technical points of playing his new positions, though.

After two practices at the Senior Bowl it looks like he still has a ways to go in that aspect.

"I love being on the football field with my team," Robinson said when asked about his new role. "I just love playing football. As long as you give me a shot I know I’m going to go 100 percent to try and play it.

"You are thinking less (the second day)," he said. "You’re thinking less so you’re trying to get better at running routes and trying to come out of breaks and just doing what coaches tell you."

Most draft analysts have Robinson being selected in the first three rounds of the draft. The Lions have a need for a player with speed and playmaking ability both as a runner and receiver, especially if Jahvid Best doesn't return in 2013.