While some of the additions and veterans at wide receiver have stolen the headlines this offseason, second-year Redskin Aldrick Robinson is quietly finding his own niche at receiver during training camp.
Robinson (5-10, 181) was selected by Washington out of Southern Methodist University in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Redskins' coaches spoke favorably of the speedy receiver last offseason, but two muffed punts against the Colts in the preseason destroyed his chances of making the final 53-man roster.
After spending all but one week of his rookie campaign on the practice squad, working closely with special teams coordinator Danny Smith, Robinson feels confident going into Thursday's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
"I have a year of training at punt returner, so I'm very comfortable with catching punts now," Robinson said. "I don't even have to think about it anymore, I can just go out and do it.
"The muffed punts are way behind me. I was a little nervous back then. I didn't catch punts in college, so it was a little uncomfortable for me. This preseason, if I get a chance to get back there and catch a punt, I definitely won't muff it."
Head coach Mike Shanahan made it clear this offseason that he expects his return specialist to be able to contribute on offense. That bodes well for Robinson, who possesses exceptional speed and brings better size than some of his counterparts.
"I just want to be on the 53-man roster this year," Robinson said. "That's what my goal is, and anything to help this team win–whether that's returning kicks, running down on kicks, blocking on kicks, catching balls, coming in for offensive situations–anything I can do."
Brandon Banks has been the team's primary kickoff and punt returner over the past two seasons, and has been spectacular in that role at times. The third-year receiver has produced modestly on offense, however, recording just three career catches for 20 yards.
Robinson appeared in 46 games during his college career and caught 181 passes for 3,313 yards (18.3 avg.) and 30 touchdowns. The former Mustang ranks second in school history in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and fourth in receptions.
Although Robinson returned just five kickoffs for 110 yards at SMU, college football analyst Todd McShay rated the former high school track star the top returner prospect in the 2011 draft.
Robinson attributes much of the lofty grade to his athletic prowess.
"McShay probably went off my speed and my quickness," Robinson explained. "Once I get the ball in my hands I can do some good things with it. Now that I can actually catch punts, he can stand by his word now."
A full season behind him, and an opportunity to absorb the playbook and operate in the system, Robinson is now showing coaches his full range of ability and feels he has positioned himself well to make the opening day roster.
"I'm very confident about my chances of making the team," Robinson said with a smile. "Last season we kept a lot of receivers, but I don't know how they're going to do it this year.
"Right now I'm just trying to make it hard for the coaching staff to keep me. Everybody is competing right now and I'm just out here trying to show everybody that I can make plays for this team."