I woke up Tuesday morning the same way I did any other day. I rolled over, turned off my alarm and checked my phone.
“ALLEN ROBINSON IS A BEAR!” “PACE DID IT! HE GOT HIS GUY!” “BEARS ARE BACK!” Were the first three messages I saw and naturally I thought I was still dreaming.
I anxiously tried to get my eyes to adjust so I could catch up to the chaos that apparently occurred during my slumber.
After reading more messages from friends and scrolling through twitter I realized my dream came true.
Allen Robinson is a Bear.
Robinson was the top free agent receiver and Bears fans have been fantasizing about him playing in Chicago the moment the offseason began. Or in my case, the moment it was rumored that Jacksonville wasn’t going to lock him up long-term.
Robinson grew up in Detroit where he found great success playing for St. Mary’s Preparatory, helping lead his team to a state title his senior year.
He was a 3-star recruit while at St. Mary’s and picked Penn State over Minnesota, Buffalo and Toledo.
After playing in just three games as a freshman, he burst onto the scene in 2012 as a sophomore, bringing in 77 receptions for 1,018 yards, 11 touchdowns and becoming a first-team All-Big Ten selection.
He followed that up with an incredible junior campaign as he had 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and 6 touchdowns. He was a consensus All-American and was selected in the second round (61st overall) of the 2013 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After a successful yet modest rookie season which included 48 receptions for 548 yards in 8 games, he truly arrived and took over the NFL in 2015.
At the ripe age of 22, Robinson hauled in 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and lead the NFL in touchdowns with 14.
The only receivers with more yards were Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall and Odell Beckham, so he was in elite company.
His 2016 campaign saw a decrease in productivity as he only had 883 yards off 73 receptions, but there are many reasons for this and shouldn’t concern Bears fans.
For starters, Robinson’s 2015 explosion caught the league by surprise. Nobody expected a second-year receiver to be able to post those numbers for a 5-11 Jaguars team. He was able to excel while staying somewhat under the radar.
In 2016, everyone knew that Robinson was an elite receiver and demanded the attention of defenders right at the line of scrimmage, preventing him from getting the separation he was used to in 2015.
This explains why despite having only seven fewer receptions than the previous year, Robinson had over 500 fewer yards. He simply attracted much more attention than in 2015 and the defenders were forced to press or shadow him immediately, meaning he couldn’t get open in space.
The offense in Jacksonville had a “Robinson or bust” approach in 2016 as he had the same number of targets (151) as he did the year prior, but he was expected to do the exact same thing against top defensive backs that were centering their entire defensive approach on stopping this one receiver.
In other words, the rest of the NFL adjusted to Robinson being a stud and the Jaguars continued to treat him like he was still flying under the radar.
He was running the same routes, positioned the same spot throughout the game and what he was asked to do was becoming predictable for defenders.
That isn’t Robinson’s fault, that’s on the coach.
Given the right coach and the right scheme, Robinson will find similar success he had just three years ago.
The right coach and the right scheme can be found in Chicago with Matt Nagy.
Nagy is a creative coach and he can find many different ways to utilize the versatility that Robinson brings to the table.
His size and 4.56 40-yard dash make him seem like more of a possession receiver than anything else, but he brings so much more to the field.
He is a phenomenal route runner and has the ability to get open by being more physical than the corner or by using excellent footwork before making a break away from the defender.
Robinson has great instincts and is able to fake a defender playing him one-on-one with ease. If Mitch Trubisky throws a ball at the point of one of his breaks, he will be open and will come down with the ball.
His 40 time was mentioned earlier, and while most corners will be able to post a time faster than his, he is still able to burn them on deep routes using his long stride.
His ability to make a stutter-step and immediately extend his stride to full speed is a difficult task for a corner to match up against one-on-one and this is how he creates separation on the flat.
While he is nearly unstoppable in the open field, he can still create magic in coverage by coming down with balls that simply shouldn’t be catchable.
He is a very physical player that can match up against any defender and have a good chance at making the catch.
Robinson has the ability to beat a defender on a short route using his footwork, he can fake out defenders on an instant, he can maintain his speed down the length of the field, and he can “Moss” a defender if he has to.
Whatever Nagy and Trubisky will need Robinson to do … he can do it.
We weren’t able to see if he was going to bounce back this past season due to a torn ACL in the opening week, so I understand the concern of him being overhyped.
Robinson is a true top receiver in the NFL and he will excel under Nagy.
Unlike the 2016 Jaguars, the Bears have more offensive weapons that will prevent defenses from being able to entirely focus on one player.
If defenses decide to focus solely on Robinson, Cam Meredith will be open on the other side of the field, Taylor Gabriel will be open across the flat, Tarik Cohen will have space out of the backfield or Trey Burton will be open downfield. If you focus on one guy, another weapon opens up.
The 2018 Bears will require defenses to have a balanced approach and this will result in Robinson getting open at a much higher rate than in Jacksonville.
If defenses approach the Bears with a balanced attack, expect to see Robinson as Trubisky’s number one option while bringing in around 70 receptions, 1,000+ yards and 8 to 10 touchdowns.
His ACL injury is an obvious concern, but it’s 2018, science is better than it’s ever been and athletes are recovering from what was once considered a career-ending injury in record time. He should be able to bounce back without missing a beat.
Whether Robinson returns to his 2015 self will be determined in due time, but Trubisky has the target he needs to succeed and the Bears have the playmaker that can take this team to the next level.