Allen Robinson

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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As "Year 2" Officially Begins, Bears Have Eyes on Building a Dynasty

As "Year 2" Officially Begins, Bears Have Eyes on Building a Dynasty

Tarik Cohen certainly knows how to make an entrance. 

Rocking a Walter Payton jersey, Cohen made quite a bit of (literal) noise when he whipped his Polaris Slingshot up to the dorm rooms at Olivet Nazarene University.

Like an All-Pro running back gunning it through the parking while blasting DaBaby, the Bears aren’t sneaking up on anyone this season. 

“We hold ourselves to a higher standard now,” Cohen said. “The older guys that have been here and watched us go from last place to winning the division, we know what it takes to have that success and to have that work pay off in the regular season coming out of camp.

“... I'm doing what I love, playing football and I get the opportunity to come out here with my guys and make a dynasty.” 

The personnel is in place. Whether it’s a wide receivers room that could feature 7 guys on the final 53, an overhauled running back group better suited to thrive in Matt Nagy’s system, or an offensive line that’s returning all five starters, the Bears’ offense has all the looks of a unit hell bent on improving from a 2018 campaign that saw them finish 21st in DVOA. 

“Like I said before, we know where we ended off last year but we're not going to wake up one day and be in the playoffs,” Allen Robinson said. “We've got to take each and every week how we did it last year, and make sure we have the same goals. Win our division, get back to the playoffs and then go from there on.” 

Of course, it’s all for naught without noticeable progress from quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who comes to Bourbonnais with all the pressure of a young QB in the pivotal third year of his NFL career. Throwing for 3223 yards, 24 touchdowns and completing 66 percent of your passes is by no means a bad sophomore season, but ask anyone in Halas Hall about the QB’s untapped potential, and they’ll all say the same thing: as Trubisky goes, so does the offense. 

“Rookie season didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” he said. “Last year, we saw a little bit of progress, and that’s the theme for this camp, just steady, incremental progress…

“... I think if you just focus on the little things then the big leaps will take care of themselves. Obviously, we all want to have big years but it doesn’t happen like that. We gotta come to work every day.” 

 What does a successful camp look like for the Bears, and for an offense that’s more than ready to pick up their end of the slack? It depends on who you ask. 

“For me it’s just completing a lot of balls, getting in and out of the huddle, and taking care of the football,” Trubisky said. “It all starts for me just good eyes and good footwork throughout camp.” 

“Just work on being consistent,” Cohen added. “I feel like that was one of the biggest things last year; we need to be more consistent. 

“The defense bailed us out last year a lot and we want to do our job more often this year.” 

Bears see Allen Robinson picking up where he left off

Bears see Allen Robinson picking up where he left off

Down the list of things that would’ve happened had Cody Parkey made his game-winning attempt as time expired against the Philadelphia Eagles in January — below the Bears advancing to face the Los Angeles Rams and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, perhaps, not getting the head coaching gig in Denver — is a major narrative: Mitch Trubisky would’ve stood as a playoff hero, with Allen Robinson as his trusty sidekick. 

Robinson started to take over the Bears’ first playoff game in eight years in late in the third quarter, with consecutive receptions totaling 57 yards that drove the Bears to the doorstep of the red zone (that drive ended in a field goal). A 22-yard bullying of Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox — who committed pass interference on the play — led to a go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. 

And then, with little hope left, Robinson caught passes for 25 and eight yards, miraculously getting the Bears into position to win with time expiring. We all know what happened next. 

The point of re-hashing Robinson’s play-by-play here, though, is this: The Bears believe what Robinson showed in those critical situations in January is what he can do for the entire 2019 season. 

“Now he can go back and kind of go off that Philly game thinking wow, I did some stuff that I was used to doing, I (previously) wasn’t comfortable doing and now it’s there,” Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “Now he’s had a whole offseason to recover physically, he’s come back in shape, he gets to go out there now and throw the ball with Mitch, which he didn’t get to do until training camp last year. I think from a mental standpoint, that’s where he’s going to grow the most. 

“(Physically), it’s all there now, it’s all back, he’ll be able to come to camp now physically ready. Mentally, I think this is where it’s going to be fun to watch him to see how far he takes it with his mental aspect of the game.”

Robinson didn’t participate in OTAs a year ago while he was recovering from a torn ACL that prematurely ended his final season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. That robbed him of his first chance to not only take a crash course in Matt Nagy’s offense, but develop timing and chemistry with Trubisky. 

Robinson missed three games last season due to groin and ribs injuries, though, which does leave his health as a question mark entering Year 2 of his three-year contract. But during OTAs this spring, Robinson is healthy and said he feels “light years ahead” of where he was a year ago. 

“I wasn’t participating, so being able to go out here, be at different positions, see different looks and things like that, it’s got me better,” Robinson said. 

That Robinson put up the production he did — 55 catches on 94 targets for 754 yards with four touchdowns — is viewed positively by those around Halas Hall. As Furrey said, Robinson wasn’t completely comfortable in the offense until late in the season, and still managed to have a pair of 100-yard games and then set a franchise receiving record in the playoffs with those 10 catches for 143 yards. 

Now?

"He knows exactly what he’s doing on every single play," Trubisky said. "Me and him are just able to build that timing — the routes and adjustments and what we want to get done in the offseason. It’s been great having him out here, throwing to him and I think it’s just gonna help our dynamic duo and help push the other guys to get even better all offseason long." 

The Bears are the only team in the NFL to not have a 1,000-yard receiver since 2015, with that mark last broke in Chicago by Alshon Jeffery in 2014. If Robinson can build off his record-setting playoff game, as the Bears expect, he could be the one to snap that cold streak. 

“I’m pretty familiar with this offense, spending last year in it, being able to have an offseason to kind of look through it and look at things, for me, it’s definitely an advantage,” Robinson said. “…  I’m trying to create big plays, I’m trying to make this offense as explosive as possible.”