Bears

Allen Robinson is looking like a true No. 1 receiver. Can he break the Bears' 1,000-yard drought?

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USA Today

Allen Robinson is looking like a true No. 1 receiver. Can he break the Bears' 1,000-yard drought?

Here’s a fact that feels surprising every time it’s brought up: Allen Robinson is still in his mid-20s, turning 26 on Aug. 24. 

This is a guy who’s entering his sixth season in the NFL, having debuted while Marc Trestman was still Bears' coach. He’s four years removed from his 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown explosion with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but is also two years removed from the torn ACL that wound up ending his career there. 

As he enters his second season with the Bears, the difference from Year 1 to Year 2 has been noticeable. 

“I look like a totally different player,” Robinson said. 

That statement runs deeper than in just how he’s played over the course of the Bears’ preseason practices. He was able to grow his rapport with Mitch Trubisky during OTAs — a year ago, he wasn’t participating in those — and no longer has to focus on rehabbing his knee to get back on the field. 

But how Robinson looks even goes beyond his connection with Trubisky or his health. Cornerback Prince Amukamara practiced against Robinson when the pair were in Jacksonville in 2016, and said the receiver he was then isn’t the receiver he is today — in a good way. 

“He was real good in Jacksonville, and I feel like he’s better now,” Amukamara said. “I feel like in Jacksonville he really just went up and got the ball, they threw him a lot of jump balls. But now he’s running routes, he’s very crafty, he changes his tempo and he just seems very polished right now. He makes our jobs harder on defense.”

Amukamara pointed out that, of course, Robinson can still go up and snag those jump balls. Trubisky’s confidence in Robinson’s go-up-and-get-it ability grew in 2018, and is stronger entering 2019’s season. 

“I have a lot of confidence within myself, with me and him's chemistry,” Trubisky said. “And just being on the same page, if I put it up in his area 12 is going to come down with it.”

But it’s clear Robinson is more than a jump ball guy to Trubisky. The Bears can use him in a number of different ways, and the detail he puts into his routes and his ability to read coverages makes him a threat anywhere on the field. 

Similarly encouraging: Robinson and Trubisky are seeing things the same way. 

“I think for me and Mitchell I think we’ve done that a lot, being able to see whether it’s the breaking angle out of a route or stuff like that,” Robinson said. “I think, for us, we got a chance to rep a lot of that and to be on the same page — like if the corner plays it like this or if they run this kind of pressure or whatever it may be.”

Coach Matt Nagy said he’s observed Trubisky’s trust in Robinson being “a lot higher” than it was a year ago, too. 

“(Robinson) understands coverages,” Nagy said. “I think that separates the good wide receivers from the ones that become great. He has that next-level awareness. When you have that and you put the 'want' into how bad he wants it with his quarterback, that's where it's gonna be fun to see what those guys, how they connect this year.”

The Bears haven’t had a receiver eclipse 1,000 yards since 2014, representing the longest drought in the NFL. This is an offense, though, that believes in its ability to spread the ball around to a number of weapons, from Robinson to Taylor Gabriel to Anthony Miller to Trey Burton to Tarik Cohen to Cordarrelle Patterson to David Montgomery, etc. Not having a 1,000-yard receiver — sorry, fantasy football players — wouldn’t necessarily be viewed as a bad thing inside Halas Hall. 

Yet Robinson will enter 2019 with the best shot at hitting that mark, as he did four years ago. He stood out more than any other receiver during training camp, looking like a go-to guy for Trubisky if the offense is in a tight spot. That’s what he proved to be in the final seconds of January’s wild card loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, in which he dominated the final 20 minutes and made two critical catches that set up what could’ve been a game-winning field goal with time expiring (we all know what happened after that). 

So whether or not Robinson has a three or four-digit receiving yards total feels less important than the continuation of his development into a reliable, trustworthy target for his quarterback at any time in a game. And from what we've seen over the last month, that's what he'll be for Trubisky in 2019. 

“He's pretty much winning,” Trubisky said. “When it's one-on-one, the ball is going to 12 and he's unstoppable when he can go like that."

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Analytics: Mitch Trubisky was better than his stats suggest vs. Lions

Analytics: Mitch Trubisky was better than his stats suggest vs. Lions

It's Mitch Trubisky week in Chicago after the Bears defeated the Detroit Lions, 20-13, in Week 10's semi-breakout game at Soldier Field for the struggling third-year quarterback.

Trubisky tossed three touchdowns in the victory and finished the game 16-of-23 for 173 yards. He added eight yards rushing on three attempts.

The stats aren't great; they're solid. He threw three touchdowns, which isn't easy in the NFL, but he didn't dominate the Lions for four quarters like he did in 2018 when he passed for 355 yards and three touchdowns in Week 9.

Still, Trubisky was better than he's been all season even if he did take too many sacks and was off-target more than Matt Nagy (or anyone wearing Bears colors) would've liked to see.

But as is often the case, stats don't tell the complete story of a player's performance. Enter analytics giant Pro Football Focus, whose grades for Week 10's game helps sharpen the focus on Trubisky's day. 

He was the team's third-highest graded player on offense with a 78.6, which also set a new watermark for his 2019 season. His next-highest grade is 60.7, which he registered in Week 9 against the Eagles. 

Allen Robinson's 80.6 was the only full-time starter who scored higher than Trubisky. Ben Braunecker's 90.9 was tops, but he only played 12 snaps.

Trubisky was especially effective when he had time to throw. He scored an 81.5 when the Bears' pass protection held up, completing 13-of-18 passes for 113 yards and all three scores when he wasn't under pressure. This stat is important to note because like any quarterback, Trubisky's struggles, at times, have been the product of a breakdown in pass protection. His grade dropped to a 63.5 on Sunday when pressure ensued around him.

Trubisky was also solid on passes that traveled beyond 20 yards. He completed three of his four downfield throws for 75 yards; it's a part of Chicago's offense that seemed to disappear over the team's four-game losing streak. Nagy's newfound commitment to the run should continue helping Trubisky and the offense's third-level passing game.

Was Trubisky great in Week 10? No, he wasn't. There were plenty of bad throws and bad decisions, but let's be honest: that isn't exactly shocking. What is surprising, however, is what he did well. And if there's anything to take from Sunday's game, it's that he at least has the potential to improve. 

At this point, 'potential' is better than anything we've seen in 2019.

 

There's no official update yet, but Matt Nagy acknowledged that putting Danny Trevathan on IR was a possibility

There's no official update yet, but Matt Nagy acknowledged that putting Danny Trevathan on IR was a possibility

At this point, it's probably safe to assume that Danny Trevathan isn't coming back anytime soon. 

The Bears had no official update on Monday morning, but Matt Nagy's lack of optimsim was telling all the same. Monday press conferences typically operate like an extended film review, but the coach had very little to say about that play.

"Yeah. It’ not real pretty," he said. "But it’s a part of this game. You hate to see that, so we’ll see how that goes moving forward." 

Trevathan was scheduled to get an MRI today, and Nagy had mentioned in his post game press conference that it'd probably be "a few days" before the team really knew the extent of it. Still, the pictures of his bent elbow are pretty graphic, and the linebacker was already in a sling by the time media members were allowed into the locker room. From the look and sounds of things, putting Trevathan on IR seems more likely than not. 

"It could be," Nagy admitted. "Again, we’ll know more here in the next couple of days, but we’ll see where it goes as far as weeks are concerned." 

Another not-insignificant ripple effect of any prolonged Trevathan absence is a lack of vocal leadership in the huddle. With Trevathan and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks sidelined for the forseeable future, the Bears defense now has to find the subtle balance between finding someone to fill the void and forcing them to be someone they're not, a cardinal sin of the Nagy Era Bears. 

"They’re two of the more vocal guys on that side of the ball," Nagy said. "When you lose a guy like Danny in the middle, that leadership part, you lose a little bit...

"It’s hard, just because there is so much between the two. Just their personalities in general – they’re both a little bit different, with how they handle their personalities. But they’re very similar on the field, leadership-wise. As we move forward here, we’ll have guys that are always ready and prepared and the coaches will have them the same way." 

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