The best word to describe Carolina Panthers running back Jamal Robertson. Bounced around several football leagues including the CFL, NFL Europe and most recently, the NFL. Bounced through a few teams' rosters. Bounce, as in his running style and what he does when the initial direction of the play is stifled. He currently is bouncing up the Panthers depth chart and opening eyes throughout this organization.
The 28-year old explosive back that excelled at little-known Division III Ohio Northern University, is having a tremendous preseason. For those that haven't noticed number 22 yet, keep watching, you will.
Acquired by the Panthers in 2004, after being released by the 49ers, Robertson was mainly seen on special teams. Special teams, the launching pad for most rookies, journeymen and anyone trying to crack an NFL roster is also where his main competition for a roster spot lies. Fan favorite Rod Smart, who made a splash with the Panthers in 2003 has been the main kick returner and held down the fourth spot on the depth chart at running back. A lackluster 2004 campaign has carried over into 2005 for Smart, and could see his days as a Panther expiring soon. Thus, opening the gateway for Robertson to earn a spot.
Robertson's field of vision is amazing. He hits the hole, but if that spot is filled, he bounces it outside with his shifty agility. His first step is always found with a burst and has the potential to go the distance. Warrick Dunn and Emmitt Smith's running style come to mind when trying to describe Jamal's style. Robertson's work ethic is top-notch and always gives 110%. He would be great at spelling the starter late in games. Imagine opposing defenses having to face Jamal after dealing with Foster and Davis battering through them for three quarters.
Robertson set 18 Ohio Northern records including yards per game (307) and he once scored six touchdowns in one game. After his college career, Robertson tried the CFL, but didn't make the roster of the Calgary Stampeders. He was signed by the 49ers, but they allocated him to the Rhein Fire of NFLE. Once again, Robertson excelled there and showcased his explosive, yet evasive running style. In 2002, while with the Rhein Fire, Jamal averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored 8 touchdowns in route to winning NFL Europe Offensive MVP honors. During one game against the Frankfurt Galaxy, he bolted for touchdown runs of 90, 50 and 20 yards.
He came to San Francisco to serve as Kevan Barlow's back-up. In 2002, he gained high praises from then coach Steve Mariucci for his special teams work. Robertson earned a roster spot, but didn't get a touch at running back. He did average 22 yards per return on special teams though. In 2003, he filled in for the oft-injured Barlow and averaged 4.3 yards per carry. He had a couple of costly fumbles and was waived mid-season. Carolina scooped Jamal off the waiver wire during the 2004 season, and signed a two year deal this past off season.
DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis are entrenched as the starters for the Panthers, but there are question marks about their future in Charlotte. Davis is coming off another injury plagued season and the treads might be running low for his future as a 25-30 carry back. Foster is also coming off his second injury in his short tenure in the league, but that's not really the issue. His consistency, fumbling and the mention that he would rather play out west after his contract expires this season will be the question marks. Second round draft pick Eric Shelton would appear to be the potential future back for Carolina (depending on what happens with Foster this year). Nick Goings filled in beautifully last year, but he may serve as a better back-up to Brad Hoover at the fullback spot.
If the starters get banged up, don't be surprised to see the back of Jamal Robertson's jersey this season. Whether it's in Carolina or somewhere else in the NFL landscape. Robertson will be bouncing up someone’s depth chart and around opposing teams' defense. Let's hope that jersey is blue, black and silver on September 5th.
Originally published on PantherInsider.com