John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Denard Robinson is transitioning to wide receiver at the Senior Bowl, and many critics wonder why he's there in the first place. Can Robinson prove the haters wrong?
Let's keep one fact in mind throughout this article: Denard Robinson has been trained to play quarterback for the last four years of his life, and before that he was a quarterback in a run-oriented offense. Has Denard Robinson ever played receiver? No.
Is it easy to learn how to play receiver? No. Anyone lacking football knowledge will tell you that picking up the wide receiver position is easy, and they'll trash Denard Robinson for failing to pick it up within a matter of days. Informed football minds will tell you the complete opposite. Memorizing route trees and hot routes on paper is one thing, but acquiring the muscle memory to cut in and out of every single one of those routes is another. Oh, and after you learn how to make the cut you'll need to learn how to create separation with it in live action. Then you'll need to learn to match it all up with the delivery of the ball. I think you get the point.
Obsessed and biased Buckeyes will tell you that Robinson's transition to receiver is a joke. They'll infer that a few dropped balls and rounded routes mean that he's not worthy of an NFL pick. The fact that the 11W staff even took the time to post that is hilarious, but that's beside the point. They won't admit that learning to catch a football from NFL-caliber quarterbacks is something that takes months to do. They'll forget to tell you that Denard Robinson has been doing this for less than a week.
They'll also forget to mention that Denard Robinson is doing everything that he can to learn a new language:
Gilmore said Robinson has some tangible and intangible qualities that should allow him to make up ground quickly. "The language I'm talking right now to him is foreign," Gilmore said. "It's Chinese. But the one thing I appreciate, he's asking questions." On Monday and Tuesday, Robinson stuck close to Gilmore when he wasn't taking reps. When Robinson saw something he either didn't understand or wanted to clarify, he asked Gilmore. "He's very coachable," Gilmore said. "He's a very humble kid. He asks some great questions. Not good questions. Great questions." That willingness to learn combined with Robinson's superior athleticism should help him close the gap with more experienced receivers. "Because of the athleticism he possesses, it will be a shorter learning curve than most," Gilmore said. "Once again, the God-given ability will take over. He's just got to get the reps."
The first thing Denard does after practice is grab his position coach. He's eager to learn.
He's also fighting through an elbow injury that affects his ability to catch the ball. A receiver's best friends are his fingers, which make contact with the ball before anything else. Robinson is still favoring his right arm, and his specific injury affects his ability to grip the ball with his right hand. He's nursing an injury that affects his ability to feel the ball in, all while learning to look in NFL passes, and you already want to assume that he has poor hands? Please.
The setup in Mobile isn't helping Robinson much either. Robinson isn't Micahel Crabtree or A.J. Green, he's Randall Cobb or Brad Smith. He's a utility player who will line up in a multitude of positions to give defenses trouble. The Senior Bowl isn't going to highlight his ability to take direct snaps, hand-offs or reverses. It's currently highlighting a player who is nursing an arm injury while attempting to learn an entirely new position.
I expect Denard Robinson to slowly learn the position and transition nicely into the League. I think it will take him more time than players like Brad Smith, partly because I've always felt like Robinson's football IQ is merely average. Still, his critics needs to back off before they see Robinson's true potential.