Jay Gruden: Keenan Robinson stands out

ASHBURN, Va. -- For the past two years, his name would come up -- whether prompted or not. Teammates liked what they saw of LB Keenan Robinson; coaches loved what they thought he could become.

Two injuries forced the word "cautious" to be placed in front of their optimism.

Now, coming off two torn pectoral muscles in each of his first two years, Robinson is working with the starters. Keep this in mind: It’s still the spring. He knows the defense and is fast, so he’s able to play fast during the OTA workouts. The real test for Robinson will come in the preseason when he must prove he can stay healthy and that he can play fast in games that count.

That test will come soon enough. For now, he’s once more getting the coaches anxious to see more -- with fingers crossed.

“He’s one of the guys on the field that stands out. ‘Is that Keenan again?’ ” Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s doing a great job, so the big thing is to keep him healthy. We’re hoping he has no drawbacks from his injury.”

If that happens, the Redskins have veteran insurance with Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan. They also have Adam Hayward, though he’s mostly a special-teams player. It also helps that they have stronger coaching at the position with inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.

But Robinson gives the Redskins’ defense something in one package the others do not: A bigger guy who is young and can run. He played in the nickel package as a rookie before tearing his first pec, but will have to learn to play the run as well -- the primary function of this position. That means diagnosing plays and shedding blocks and, yes, using his speed.

“Mentally he’s in good shape,” Gruden said. “Physically he looks excellent to me. He’s running, he’s long and he can run sideline to sideline in pass coverage. He’s disruptive. He gets into zones and is a big guy to throw over. He can cover tight ends, he can cover backs. We have high hopes for Keenan and love the progress he’s making.”

Here's what Robinson had to say about missing so much time.