Khiry Robinson sidesteps talk about his rushing rise with the same aptitude he utilizes to avoid defenders — quick and steady.
Still, Robinson’s newfound role as the Saints’ leading rusher through five games offers a different tale.
He enters Sunday’s game at Detroit with 304 yards and two touchdowns, solid statistics when factoring he’s shared backfield duties, while playing on a Drew Brees-led passing offense. Robinson is also averaging 5 yards per carry, which is 10th among the NFC’s rushers.
So here comes the question Robinson can’t elude: If the carries continue, is the 1,000-yard plateau within reach?
“If the ball is given to me, the only thing I can do is what I’m supposed to do: give 100 percent each play, try to get a first down or maybe score,” said Robinson, an undrafted free agent in his second NFL season.
“I don’t focus too much on 1,000 yards or anything like that. I’m just trying to win right now.”
To reach this tally, Robinson must average 63.2 yards for the final 11 games.
The Saints’ success may be tied to Robinson’s many runs.
A running game, when coupled with a passing game, slows down defenses, especially pass rushers, giving Brees more time to find receivers downfield. Conversely, it creates favorable matchups at the line of scrimmage, allowing Robinson and others a better chance to reach the second level of defenses.
Robinson has helped the Saints rank eighth in the NFL in rushing (133 yards per game). Only Seattle (5.3) averages more yards per carry than the Saints’ running game (5.2).
“He’s a great runner, and our offensive line is doing a heck of a job of opening up holes for him,” said Saints running back Pierre Thomas (120 yards, two TDs). “He breaks tackles. You can see how hard he runs. Everybody sees how hard he runs, and that’s why I like him.”
“No matter how we get the yards, I’m glad we’re running the ball because we need to be a balanced team. We’ve showed in the past we can (be).”
Last season, Robinson made his first impact during a Week 6 loss at New England, sparking a rally with a third-quarter score. He enjoyed similar success during playoff road games at Philadelphia and Seattle, setting the tone for what could become a breakout season in 2014.
This fall, Robinson became the lead back when Mark Ingram broke his thumb during a Week 2 loss at Cleveland. Since then, Robinson has earned career-high carries during wins against Minnesota (18) and Tampa Bay (21).
His work load may change with Ingram set to return in weeks, perhaps days from a broken hand and Thomas’ continual push, but coach Sean Payton could also decide to keep Robinson running.
The Saints have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Deuce McAllister (1,057 yards) in 2006.
“I think he and Mark kind of have that opportunity,” right tackle Zach Strief said. “It’s hard to tell how they’ll get carries (when Ingram returns), but we have two guys that we’re really confident in. Ultimately, the more confidence that we can give Sean in our running game, the more effective we can be.”
Robinson could be the guy.
“You never know,” Robinson said, adding a sheepish smile. You’ve got to take it game by game. If I do (get the carries), I’m going to try to do the best that I can.”