Why Allen Robinson's skill set is no longer unique among Bears receivers
During a recent public appearance, wide receiver Allen Robinson pointed out how great it feels to be starting work for a season entirely healthy, while also knowing the offense well.
“This is only the second time in my career that I went into another season with the offensive coordinator that I had the year before,” Robinson told the Chicago Tribune.
As for his health, Robinson wasn't even practicing when the Bears started organized team activities last year due to his torn ACL. When the season started, he had to deal with groin, calf and rib injuries.
“For me, a big difference is not being injured, being able to come in and work on stuff that I want to work on,” Robinson said in the interview.
It's good Robinson feels he's in such a good place because he'll need every edge he can manage. The receiver job battles in training camp figure to be among the team's toughest.
The receiver position for the Bears has gone from a barren wasteland two seasons ago to one where every single position is backed up by at least two players, and it promises to be a constant battle just to see the field. That includes the X-receiver position where Robinson plays.
As a result, the offense seems better equipped to handle the improvement expected this season.
The Bears made their biggest alterations offensively at running back this past offseason, but it's difficult at this point to say without doubt they've improved the chances for output at running back. After all, they were sixth in rushing last year, and getting much better won't be easy.
The passing game was only 21st and an obvious problem the Bears had beyond Mitchell Trubisky's inexperience with the offense was dealing with any injury. It wasn't a deep group of receivers.
Robinson suffered a groin injury and missed two games. Later he missed another game with a rib injury, which he took into the playoff game. Injuries helped limit Robinson to 55 receptions for 754 yards and four touchdowns, when an 80-catch, 1,000-yard season seemed more realistic numbers at the outset. His 10-catch, 143-yard playoff performance displayed the potential he has within the offense.
According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson was the fourth-best receiver at making contested catches, at 58.3 percent.
Expecting Robinson to get through a season without missing games due to injuries might be a big leap of faith because he's done this just twice in five seasons.
If Robinson does miss games, the Bears now have Riley Ridley to perform duties at Robinson's position, among others.
The ability to make plays in jump ball situations is a trait Robinson alone could handle for the Bears last year. When he was out, they didn't really have this weapon. Javon Wims wasn't at a stage in development to do it. Josh Bellamy had some of the skills but lacked consistency.
Ridley is a protypical Z receiver due to his well-developed route running, but he has X receiver traits and one is getting the jump balls.
"When the ball is in the air, he's going to win it," GM Ryan Pace said of Ridley after the draft.
Now the Bears actually have one or two others beyond Robinson and Ridley who can contribute this way. Cordarrelle Patterson has the speed to go downfield, and at 6-2, 225 he can get up in the air for throws, although his skills are more likely to be used and better used in numerous other ways.
Also, besides having 4.39-second speed in the 40, undrafted rookie Emanuel Hall has a 43.5-inch vertical leap and is 6-2. He could be a prototypical X receiver if he can get beyond nagging injuries and stay focused. Those were problems at Missouri.
Considering Robinson signed only a three-year contract and has two years left, and counts $15 million against the cap each of the next two year, it's always good to have players who can take over his role.
You can never tell if in the future the team might consider the cash better spent elsewhere.