Five weeks after Brian Robinson suffered two gunshot wounds as he tried to thwart an armed robbery attempt, the Washington Commanders running back was cleared to practice.
If ever a team needed a feel-good story it’s the embattled Commanders (1-3), losers of three straight games and who host the Tennessee Titans (2-2) on Sunday at Landover, Md.
Robinson, a rookie from Alabama who impressed in the preseason, has made a remarkable recovery after being shot in right knee and thigh in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C.
With an interesting choice of words, Commanders coach Ron Rivera discussed Robinson’s return.
“Hopefully it will be a nice shot in the arm,” Rivera said.
Robinson, who appeared set to replace Antonio Gibson as Washington’s starting running back before the shooting incident, could be activated on Sunday.
“I’m the king of adversity,” Robinson told reporters after his first full practice on Wednesday.
After two seven-win seasons and a poor start to this year, pressure is ramping up on Rivera. During their three-game skid, the Commanders have been outscored in the first half 58-7.
Opposing defenses are feasting on Washington’s troubled offensive line, which has yielded more sacks (17) than any team in the league, exposing quarterback Carson Wentz’s discomfort when pressured.
Knee surgery for standout center Chase Roullier is likely to sideline him for the season. His replacement, Wes Schweitzer, started one game before going on injured reserve with a concussion sustained in Week 3.
Tackle Sam Cosmi had thumb surgery on Tuesday and his status is uncertain for Sunday. Washington’s other starting tackle Charles Leno (shoulder) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Guard Trai Turner was benched early for poor play in a 25-10 loss at Dallas on Sunday.
Robinson’s return could help sell play-action fakes and take some of the heat off of Wentz and the offensive line, Rivera said.
“If you can get the pass rushers going sideways, it slows it down a little bit,” Rivera said. “Any time there’s the dual threat of a run/pass, it plays to our benefit. We’ve got to get to that.”
Washington likely will be without rookie wideout Jahan Dotson (hamstring), who has four touchdown catches in his first four NFL games and missed practice on Wednesday along with wideout Curtis Samuel (illness).
Getting the running game going won’t be easy against a Tennessee defense that limited the Colts to 38 yards on 23 rushes in a 24-17 win Sunday at Indianapolis. The NFL’s top rusher last season, Jonathan Taylor, had 42 yards on 20 attempts.
“Our inside linebackers played the run as well as I can remember,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Dylan Cole, Joe Schobert and Davis Long. “We’ll need that this week.”
The health of the linebacker unit is an issue as Joe Jones (knee), Bud Dupree (hip), Zach Cunningham (elbow) and Ola Adeniyi (neck) missed practice on Wednesday, along with wideout Treylon Burks (toe).
The Titans enter on a two-game winning streak, which coincides with improved work from running back Derrick Henry. In two losses to open the year, Henry averaged 3.1 yards per touch. Since then, he’s gained 290 yards on 50 touches, for an average of 5.8 yards.
Unlike Washington, Tennessee has started fast the last two weeks, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions in a 24-22 win over the Raiders and scoring three touchdowns and a field goal in its first four possessions against the Colts.
–Field Level Media