Allen Robinson has been by far the Bears best offensive player over the past two seasons with 200 receptions for 2,397 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Only Stefon Diggs (2,665), Davante Adams (2,576) and DeAndre Hopkins (2,572) have piled up more receiving yardage than Robinson over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
That is why it is so surprising and disturbing that through eight games this season his targets (44) are down 43 % from where they were exactly one year ago, catches (26) are down 48%, yardage (271) down 56% and his TDs (1) are down 66%.
Still, Robinson remains the ultimate team guy.
“I mean, it’s been tough, just trying to, you know, trying to account for everything,” Robinson said. “Trying to see what I can do differently, trying to figure out what there is that can be done differently, again, on my end.”
There is nothing on the tape to suggest Robinson has lost anything physically and asked if there is Robinson said, “To be honest, no.”
Robinson also said he didn’t have an answer for the dropoff.
“Tough to say,” Robinson said. “I think for us, just trying to figure out schematically as a team and as a unit what we do well. Trying to find success in that.”
And there is the answer, hiding right there in plain sight.
Robinson isn’t being used properly because everything the Bears are doing on offense right now is built around developing Justin Fields, putting him in situations to be successful and not asking him to put the ball in places that could get him in trouble if not executed just right.
I am not opining whether that’s the right or wrong thing to do, that’s for a different column and a different time.
The only point here is there’s really no mystery as to what’s wrong with Robinson. Nothing.
Here is some of what offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Friday about the reduced use of Robinson:
“The reality is the way we’re playing football right now there are a lot of unhappy offensive pass catchers but they’re being professional and they’re trying to help us win. But that’s … when you’re running the ball so much, you’re pass catchers, no one is going to be happy and that is the case.”
A bit later he added, “We probably look, especially when you’re not making enough first downs, when you’re not throwing the ball … I mean right now when you look at where we throw the ball, right?
“How many balls did we complete between the numbers last game, especially over 10 yards?
“We’re just … There are certain things we’re just not doing well.”
When I followed up and asked specifically if the development of Fields was limiting Robinson’s use and production Lazor said he didn’t want to make an excuse.
“So, I guess I would just put it on how we have chosen to play these games,” Lazor said.
While not an exact cause and effect, the Bears have thrown 34 fewer passes through eight games this season than last, and Robinson’s targets are down 33.
Plug in Darnell Mooney’s targets up by 10 and Cole Kmet’s up 28, safer throws while Robinson is still demanding the most attention from opposing defenses, and Anthony Miller’s 42 targets at this point last season have been replaced by just 28 to Marquise Goodwin, Damiere Byrd and Jimmy Graham combined and the answer can’t be any more obvious.
The idea that Robinson’s disappearing act has anything to do with not giving Fields the starting job over the summer and/or in training camp costing him reps with the first team and Robinson is ridiculous.
Mooney and Kmet, like Robinson were also first stringers, their usage and production is up, and Fields didn’t get noticeably more reps with them than he did with Robinson.
As Lazor told us a week or two ago, there is a difference between “NFL open” and what Fields was used to at Ohio State.
It is the rookie QB and the scheme he’s being given to run that is limiting Robinson’s production, plain and simple.
The name of this offense right now is safety first and until the Fields training wheels come off, Robinson isn’t likely to suddenly reemerge.