While Branden Albert's surprise retirement announcement means the team’s second-round pick is essentially locked into protecting quarterback Blake Bortles’ blind side, Robinson said he’s not approaching anything differently than he did when camp began last Thursday.
“I kind of just had the mindset to come in and work and let the chips fall where they may,” Robinson said Monday afternoon. “I just wanted to come in and kind of be a sponge and just soak everything up as fast as I could regardless of who was here and who wasn’t here. I don’t think that’ll change my preparation any.”
The Jaguars acquired Albert in a March trade with Miami, and the veteran was expected to take over as the starting left tackle. When the team drafted Robinson 34th overall, GM Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone said Robinson and Albert would compete for the starting job.
Albert took first-team reps on Thursday, but Robinson worked with the first-team offense on Friday and Saturday, so it appeared the rookie from Alabama had already taken a lead in the competition. Albert appeared to struggle with the heat on the first two days of camp. He hadn’t spent as much time working in the offense as Robinson, either, because Albert skipped the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program and organized team activities in hopes of landing a new contract.
That allowed Robinson to gain an edge over Albert despite working primarily with the second and third teams in OTAs and minicamp. Still, Robinson has to accelerate his adjustment, especially since the team doesn’t yet know who will be lining up next to him at left guard.
Marrone said he liked what he has seen so far from Albert, who won a couple of one-on-one battles against defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. in pass-rush drills over the past few days, but he’s leery of simply anointing Robinson as the starter.
“I don’t want to hand a position to somebody,” Marrone said. “They have to earn it on this team.”
Even so, Robinson is the Jaguars’ best option at left tackle. Josh Wells has played in 17 games in three seasons as a reserve, but he missed all of 2015 with a thumb injury and missed the first 11 weeks of 2016 with another thumb injury. Jeremiah Poutasi started seven games for Tennessee at right tackle in 2015, but appeared in just one game with the Jaguars at left guard last season.
The knock on the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Robinson during the pre-draft process was that he lunged too much when pass blocking, which left him off balance and allowed rushers to get past him outside. Although he has done some of that during the first four camp practices, he has not been overpowered the way former first-round pick Luke Joeckel was at times during his four seasons in Jacksonville.
"Seen some good things and obviously you see some things to work on,” Marrone said. “I think at the end of the day you understand that for all these rookies they're going through a learning process. Obviously not the playbook. I'm just talking about to play and how to be out there on the field. I think coming from the University of Alabama, obviously, helps. You've played against elite players every day and practiced against them every day. But sometimes that's ingrained in those players' heads and they don't understand that when they come to this level they're going to be faster and stronger than those guys even though those guys have become good football players.”
The Jaguars need Robinson to become a good player pretty quickly.