Coming off ACL tear, Allen Robinson expects to be cleared before training camp

Coming off ACL tear, Allen Robinson expects to be cleared before training camp

The Bears are betting big on Allen Robinson and are expected to sign the former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver to a three year, $42 million contract on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Robinson won’t turn 25 until August and combined for 153 receptions, 2,283 yards and 20 touchdowns between 2015 and 2016. 

Robinson, though, tore his ACL on the third play of the 2017 season. It was a freak, non-contact injury, but coupled with a broken foot that cost him the final six games of his rookie year, he missed a total of 21 games in his four years in Jacksonville. 

Robinson told ESPN’s Adam Schefter last week that his rehab is going well and he expects to be fully cleared “well before” training camp and won’t have any limitations when he gets back on the field. 

“It’s going really (well),” Robinson said of his rehab process. “For me now, being able to get back to doing some on the field stuff when it comes to sprinting, jumping, plyo, things like that, really getting back into some football movements has been exciting. When you’re out of your football element for a few months that could kind of be tiresome, mentally, just getting ready to get back to my old self. So it’s been fun.”

Still, while Robinson sounded confident in his readiness for training camp and the Bears are optimistic about Cameron Meredith’s recovery, there is some risk assumed in having the team’s presumptive two top targets coming off torn ACLs. Expect the Bears to still pursue more targets for Mitchell Trubisky, as most of Monday's rumors centered around the team's interest in pass-catching tight ends and other receivers. 

If the Bears get a healthy and effective Robinson, they can project out for years him being Trubisky’s go-to top target. Robinson is one of only 14 players in NFL history to have a season in which he totaled at least 1,400 yards and caught 14 touchdowns, and it’s a pretty impressive list of receivers to accomplish that feat:

Robinson is barely a year older than the 23-year-old Trubisky, is a few months younger than the 24-year-old Adam Shaheen and is about a year younger than the 25-year-old Cody Whitehair and the 25-year-old Meredith. With him, the Bears not only landed arguably best receiver on the free agent market, but someone who fits with their youth movement on offense. 

“I know the level of play that I can get to and I know that my best ball is really still in front of me,” Robinson told Schefter. 

Ideally, the Bears can have Robinson, Meredith, Shaheen, Whitehair, Trubisky, Tarik Cohen and maybe Jordan Howard hit their primes at the same time, along with whoever they draft on the offensive side of the ball in April. A lot still needs to fall into place for that to happen, but that could make for an exciting, potent offense the Bears hope they could ride to a playoff berth sometime down the road. 

Bears' roster moves create a looming roster hurdle for Kevin White


Bears' roster moves create a looming roster hurdle for Kevin White

Questions have been hanging over Kevin White ever since GM Ryan Pace opted to invest the No. 7 pick of the 2015 draft on a wide receiver with one outstanding college season on his resume. Given Pace’s strike for a quarterback with a roughly similar body of work last draft, this may qualify as a Pace “strategy,” but that’s for another discussion closer to the draft.

But in the wake of signings at wide receiver by Pace and the Bears over the start-up days of free agency, a new and perhaps darker cloud is forming over White. This is beyond the obvious ones visited on the young man by his succession of three season-ending injuries, and by a nagging belief in some quarters that White is a bust irrespective of the injuries.

The point is not that White will never amount to anything in the NFL. Marc Colombo came back from a pair of horrendous leg injuries to have a career as a solid NFL tackle, albeit with the Dallas Cowboys, not the Bears.

The problem facing White now, assuming he comes back able to stay healthy in a competition with Cameron Meredith for the spot opposite Allen Robinson, is whether there is reasonably going to be a roster spot the Bears can use for him.

This would be on top of whether Pace and the organization could bring themselves to cut ties with a quality individual in a move that would amount to admitting a failure in what was supposed to be a defining initial top-10 pick by a regime committed to building through the draft.

White is still under his rookie contract with its $2.7 million guaranteed for this season, so there is little reason to simply give up on him, even assuming an offset if White then signs on somewhere else.

But Robinson and slot receiver Taylor Gabriel account for two of the starting three wideout spots. For the other wide receiver job, Meredith, also coming off season-ending knee surgery, rates an early edge on White based on Meredith’s 66-catch 2016 season.

If White does not start, he then becomes a backup, and backups are expected to contribute on special teams. It’s what has kept Josh Bellamy in the NFL, and what new Bears tight end Trey Burton points to as his ticket to making it through his first years with Philadelphia.

White doesn’t cover kicks, doesn’t return them, doesn’t block them. The Bears have typically expected special-teams participation from their No. 4-5 receivers, although the fact that Meredith and Robinson are coming off knee injuries, and chances that the Bears will keep six wide receivers in the West Coast offense of Matt Nagy, all could tilt a decision in favor of White simply as insurance/depth, even with his own injury history.

It is difficult not to have a spot of rooting-interest in White, a young guy trying so hard to get a career dream off the ground. It’s just also difficult to see a clear fit in the new Bears world that began forming in earnest in the past several days.

Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?


Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?

Not all that long ago, back in the seemingly promising Dave Wannstedt days, something of an annual narrative began around the Bears. All too frequently since then it has been the refrain of more offseasons than not, including last year’s. And if there is a cause for very, very sobering realism in the wake of the heady wave of free-agency signings in the first days of the new league year, it lies in what has so often transpired to put the lie to that optimism.

The mantra then, and now, has been various iterations of, “If these three (or four, or six, or 12) things work out, the Bears are gonna be good this year.” Because the reality is that all those what-ifs seldom, if ever, all come to pass, whether because of injury, mis-evaluated abilities or whatever.

Look no further than this time last offseason, just considering the offense:

If Kevin White can come back from (another) injury, if Markus Wheaton flashes his Pittsburgh speed, if Dion Sims takes that next step from a promising Miami stint, if Kyle Long is back from his lower-body issues, if Cameron Meredith comes close to those 66 catches again, if Mike Glennon has the upside that led the GM to guarantee him $18.5 million, and hey, Victor Cruz, too, if… and so on.

And exactly zero of those “if’s” came to pass, with the result that John Fox and Dowell Loggains became idiots.

The point is not to a picker of nit or sayer of nay. But the fact is that a lot of the offseason moves and player development ALL need to come down in the plus-column for the Bears to be even as good as they were back in, say, 2015, when the offense had Martellus Bennett at tight end, Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, Eddie Royal coming in at slot receiver (with 37 catches in an injury-shortened season), Kyle Long at his Pro-Bowl best, and Jay Cutler about to have the best full season of his career. And a new (proven) head coach and defensive coordinator, and an offensive coordinator with head-coaching talent.

All those things “worked” for a team that would wobble to a 6-10 year.

Now consider 2018:

The current top two wide receivers are both – both – coming off season-ending ACL injuries;

The incoming slot receiver has never had a season as reception-productive as the one (Kendall Wright) he is replacing (59) or as many as Royal had in just nine 2015 games (37);

The new tight end has never been a starter and has fewer career catches (63) than Bennett averaged (69) in three supremely disappointing Bears seasons;

The best offensive lineman (Long) is coming off missing essentially half of each of the past two seasons with injuries, and the co-best (Sitton) is gone from an offensive line that was middle of the pack last year and has high hopes for two linemen (Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kush) who’ve been largely backups, and a third (Jordan Morgan) who missed his rookie season with an injury;

And the quarterback (Trubisky) upon whom the franchise rests, who needs to overcome any so-called sophomore jinx and improve from a rookie level (77.8 passer rating) that was barely better than Cutler’s worst NFL season (76.8).

All of which sounds negative, but it really isn’t, just a perspective. Offseasons are about hope, but realism isn’t all bad, either.