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Off-Season Target: Allen Robinson

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The Tennessee Titans should look into signing Allen Robinson in the upcoming free agency market to upgrade their offense.  Allen Robinson is by far the best receiver in NFL free agency this year, and a certified No. 1 option in most offenses.  I decided against writing an Off-Season Target article on him because I expected the Jaguars to retain him, either via a long-term extension or the franchise tag.  News broke yesterday about the Jaguars willing to let Robinson walk, which prompted this article, and they have informed him of their decision as well.

Titans Problem: 

The Tennessee Titans do not have a No. 1 receiver as of this moment, which is a major problem for  Marcus Mariota’s development.  Young developing  QBs are usually are provided a No. 1 receiver to bail out bad throws.   Let’s look at some success stories of late:

Peyton Manning – Paired with Marvin Harrison

Aaron Rodgers– Paired with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and Jordy Nelson

Matt Stafford – Paired with Calvin Johnson

Matt Ryan – Paired with Julio Jones

Eli Manning – Paired with Plaxico Burress

Ben Roethlisberger – Paired with Hines Ward, and later Santonio Holmes

Russel Wilson – Paired with Golden Tate and then Doug Baldwin

Andy Dalton (He’s not as good) – Paired with AJ Green

We also see younger guys such as Winston (Mike Evans) or Presscott (Dez Bryant) get receivers to help their transitions.  Of course, there are guys like Tom Brady who started out with no-name receivers, and then took it to another level with Welker/Moss.   Drew Brees didn’t start with a stud receiver, but did have Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson, which was the same for Philip Rivers. 

 The whole idea is to pair a top end receiver with a young QB, because the defense must commit resources to stop the No. 1 receiver, allowing for easier reads in other parts of the field.  If the No. 1 receiver is in single coverage, then it acts as the safety blanket if things break down.  I think a No. 1 receiver is crucial for the development of a young QB because it really creates pressure on the defense, and makes decisions easier for the young QB. 

Titans Roster:

Corey Davis was drafted to be the No. 1 receiver, but he wasn’t fully healthy during the year.  He definitely has shown potential, but the Titans can’t afford to go into another season with Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, and Eric Decker as the top 3 options.  Either they need to add speed to the slot position (as I outlined in the Paul Richardson article) or acquire a high caliber receiver to move Davis to the No. 2 option. 

A No. 1 receiver also acts as insurance against any injuries by Davis and/or growing pains, while still staying competitive.  It also helps Davis get assimilated to the NFL while facing No. 2 cornerbacks and relaxed coverage.   A No. 1 receiver also gives versatility at the line of scrimmage, by freeing up Davis to move around the formation to create better match ups, something the Patriots did consistently in the playoffs.  The leading receiver for the Titans last year (in terms of receptions from wide receiver) was Eric Decker at 54 catches (Matthews is only one behind). 

Player: Allen Robinson

Robinson burst onto the national scene at Penn State University with this play:



Link to Youtube video for the play (Warning: Loud Music) 

It’s the play that put Christian Hackenberg on the map as well, but you can clearly see Robinson making a great catch here and bailing out his QB.  Once Robinson left Penn State, Hackenberg tumbled downward and has never been the same.  

Robinson then went onto to perform extremely well at the combine, showing off his physical skills, but did even better at his pro-day.

6’2” (and 5/8)

220 lbs

40 Yard Dash:  4.47 (Pro-Day)

Vertical: 42” (Pro-Day)

20 Yard Shuttle: 4.00 (Combine)

Broad Jump: 127” (Combine)

3 Cone Drill: 7.00 (Combine)

Let’s compare that to AJ Green:


211 lbs

40 Yard Dash: 4.48 (Combine)

Vertical: 34.5” (Combine)

Broad Jump: 126” (Combine)

3 Cone Drill: 6.91 (Combine)

They are somewhat similar, both a bit lanky but similar skill and they possess the ability to pluck the ball from the air at it’s highest point (as we saw with the play against Michigan earlier). 


Allen Robinson had a Pro-Bowl year in 2015, scoring 14 touchdowns, with 1400 yards on 80 catches.  However, he had a relatively down year in 2016, with 73 catches, 883 yards, and only 6 touchdowns.  

Since entering the league in 2014, Robinson has 22 TDs, while missing all of last year.  In the same time span, these are the totals for other receivers:

Julio Jones: 23

Larry Fitzgerald: 23

AJ Green: 28

Jarvis Landry: 22

Also, remember who the QB is for the Jaguars, a developing Blake Bortles with erratic tendencies.   Let’s look at some film reviews to see how Robinson does against coverage.

Film Review:

In 2016, Denver finished with the No. 1 DVOA rankings by Football Outsiders, firmly entrenched as the No. 1 defense against the pass.   So, let’s look at the film:



He’s not involved in the pass here, but notice the release he gets at the line against top end cornerback Chris Harris Jr.  The defense is matched up in man coverage, but Robinson absolutely shakes Harris away at the line of scrimmage, but Bortles takes the safe pass.   



This is an interception thrown by Bortles, while targeting Allen Robinson.  First thing to note is the position and play of Chris Harris Jr. as he turns around and runs with Robinson.  He doesn’t want Robinson to go over the top, which is why he turns his back to the QB to stay stride for stride.  It’s a perfect situation for back shoulder throws, and it’s exactly what Bortles is attempting in this case.  Harris can’t see Bortles release the ball, so Robinson has a chance to stop short and catch the ball.  However, this is a terrible throw because it’s going to the wrong shoulder, aimed at Robinson’s inside shoulder.  One of the main points of a back shoulder throw is that it’s aimed to the outside shoulder, so the receiver naturally spins around to catch it, and in the process of doing so, uses his body to block out the defender.  It’s almost impossible to defend if the pass is thrown correctly, and one of the biggest reasons why cornerbacks backpedal, instead of running stride for stride.  Alabama is notorious for having their defensive backs turn around and run stride for stride because college QBs can’t make this throw consistently, which hurts their prospects in the NFL.  If this pass is thrown to the outside shoulder, it’s most likely a catch.  In this case, Robinson has to fight to the other side, which allows Harris a direct line to attack the hands, and the ball pops up for an interception.   The other thing to notice is the safety over the top, because he’s slanted towards Robinson, even though Harris is protecting against a deep route.  Notice how the Broncos have Harris Jr. (an elite cornerback in his own right), a linebacker in the middle, and a safety over the top all slanted towards containing Robinson.  On the other side of the field, it’s one on one match-up for the No. 2 and slot receiver.   In this case, the slot receiver is wide open for an easy pass, but Bortles decides against it and takes the risk.  Nevertheless, the play highlights how a No. 1 receiver makes life much easier for No. 2 or No. 3 receiver because the defense can’t pay as much attention to them. 



Robinson isn’t involved in this play as Blake Bortles throws a fastball screen pass, which is promptly dropped.  Robinson is lined up to the outside once again (right of the formation) and notice how he attracts the defense.  He’s set up as the down field blocker for the screen pass, but the Broncos are dedicating Aqib Talib (Another Pro-Bowl caliber defender) on the receiver and a deep safety concerned just for Robinson.  There aren’t any receivers in the area for the safety to be concerned about, yet there they are with double coverage.  It’s another example of him effecting the play, even though he’s not targeted.  Another thing of note on this play is the spacing, and how it relates to the Titans.  The receivers are spread out on this play, with Lee, and slot receiver away from the line of scrimmage.  Notice how three defenders (the two defenders on receivers and safety) are taken away from the play because they are spaced too far out.  If this is a successful screen pass, the spacing allows for an effective block of three defenders using two offensive players.  If the receivers were bunched together, the spacing between the players are smaller, therefore allowing defenders to get back into defending a screen faster.  Even though it’s just a screen pass, spacing was a major emphasis on this play, but it goes for naught.   



This is a negative play for Robinson, since I should point out the flaws in his game as well.  I emphasized this particular play in the Kyle Fuller breakdown (Play 3), on short crossing routes.  Robinson beats Bradley Roby off the line of scrimmage with a couple of jab steps.  Notice how Roby is caught flat footed as Robinson swats away his hands on the play.  The route has been won, Roby shouldn’t be able to recover, but Robinson drifts back on the route.  If he runs a straight line, Roby can’t defend Robinson and it’s an easy pass (albeit, Roby might still tackle him) for Bortles.  However, Robinson starts drifting back down the field, which creates a major problem for Bortles.  Roby in recovery mode, attacks the pass angle by following the line, instead of following Robinson.  It’s simple geometry, the shortest path to a point is a straight line, and in this case, Roby’s intended path is the passing lane.  While Robinson has the advantage at the start, he relinquishes it by drifting backwards, which puts more vertical space between him and the defender, but the passing lane is now much smaller.  Blake Bortles being Blake Bortles hits Roby in stride for the touchdown.  While extremely gifted, this might be one of the bigger weaknesses in Robinson’s game, a tendency to run mediocre routes at times. 



It’s another play that Robinson isn’t really involved with directly but notice him to the right side of the formation on the outside.  He puts a quick move on the cornerback (I can’t tell which one – but since they have three stars at defensive back, I presume a good defensive back) and runs right by him to the outside.  Without safety help over the top, this is a two-yard separation at least down the field, yet Bortles doesn’t even look over, rather opting for the incomplete pass. 



I’m putting this one here to highlight Robinson lighting up the Titans that year.  This play shows why Roby is a very good cornerback while Antwon Blake is no longer on the team.  Remember the Roby interception and geometry earlier in the article?  That’s exactly where Blake fails on this play.  He has safety help over the top, so his main concern should be to cut off the passing lane, much like Roby in the earlier play.  However, Blake follows Robinson down the field which leaves the passing window open for Bortles and he makes the Titans pay.  It’s somewhat concerning that Robinson drifts downfield here instead of making a clear cut, but it doesn’t hurt him in this case. 



Antwon Blake might not want to read further.  The Jaguars are running a two-minute offense and Blake is set up well beyond the line of scrimmage, taking inside leverage.  He wants Robinson to release outside because then his hips will be turned towards the outside for any out routes (especially in two-minute offenses), while having the safety in the middle for any deeper cut back routes.  His positioning is designed to stop the exact dig route which is called for Robinson.  Notice how Robinson notices the coverage and gives a slight stutter step before cutting inside.  The step causes Blake to turn his hips to the outside, at which point this is a wide-open pass.  Bortles makes an accurate throw and Robinson shows off his skill in the open field, with a late shoe string tackle by LeShaun Sims saving a possible touchdown.  Robinson shows good route set up, good hands, and excellent yards after the catch ability here.  On the topic of Blake, he makes another mistake after the catch as well.  When he’s chasing after Robinson, he has the exact same angle as the safety, which allows for the cut back lane.  The Titans have another defender in front of Robinson and the safety in the middle.  Blake needs to take a larger angle than the safety towards Robinson to prevent cutback lanes and act as the safety in case the receiver runs down the field on the other side.  Since Blake was mirroring the safety, when Robinson makes the cut, he’s losing two defenders with one move, which shouldn’t happen in the open field. 



Blake Bortles: Le maitre of the wrong shoulder pass.  The Jaguars are taking a deep shot for the touchdown, and Robinson runs a very good route against LeShaun Sims towards the end zone.  Robinson fakes a corner route and turns up field, and all Bortles has to do on this play is put the ball to the inside of Robinson’s shoulder.  Look at Robinson’s route, because the defender has outside leverage on this play.  By mere concept, the whole point of the route is to go towards the outside, moving the defender further out, then cut back in to the inside with the defender further out, so the inside shoulder is now open.  Instead, Blake Bortles throws it to exactly where Sims would be placed if things went correctly for the Jaguars.  If Bortles throws this pass to the inside, Sims can’t make a play on it at all.  Robinson makes a great effort, but the tip of the ball hits the ground and it’s ruled incomplete.  I’m not sure why Sims is celebrating, because his contribution to the play consisted of falling down in front of Robinson, and then playing weekend referee. 



Obviously, Bortles didn’t like being called the master of wrong shoulder throws, so he makes up for it here.  It’s not a great throw but it’s hard to tell if Robinson didn’t break at the right time or Bortles threw it early.  Since Bortles is already signed, and you are most likely reading this because you want Robinson to sign with your team, let’s blame it on Blake.  Robinson shows excellent hands here by catching this ball with one hand as he’s going out of bounds.  He’s an excellent hands catcher, with a good ability to make catches away from his body.  



Oh Blake, just out to prove me wrong now.  This game is from 2015, and according to Football Outsiders, the Houston Texans had the No. 7 ranked pass defense, with now Titans head coach Mike Vrabel acting as the head of the linebackers.  Robinson absolutely destroyed the Titans that year, but I like to see match ups where the player is up against great defenses, so their value can be judged accordingly.  On this play, he’s matched up with Johnathan Joseph, a very good cornerback in his own right, especially back in 2015.  Notice how the Texans have a deep safety, a linebacker in the middle, and very good cornerback dedicated to Robinson.  The hips of Joseph are turned away from Bortles, which makes the back-shoulder pass almost impossible to stop and the Jaguars execute it perfectly here.  Bortles throws the ball well short of Robinson, who comes back for the pass and they get the first down. 



Mea culpa Blake, mea culpa.  Assume you are the slot defender on this play, and please tell me how you can defend this play.  If you don’t turn your hips, you are backpedaling while Robinson is running forward, thus he will run right by you to face a one on one match up with the safety.  If you play further back, then it can be an easy short pass.  What would you do?  This is what I call the Brandon Marshall special, because he was an absolute monster at this back-shoulder type pass.  It only works consistently with receivers that have big bodies with good verticals and excellent hands to pluck the ball out of air.  Bortles can’t risk throwing this pass low, rather he has to throw towards an area where only Robinson can reach up and get the ball.  The receiver makes a great catch here with his hands, and furthermore notice how the body is naturally used to seal off the defender.  It’s why big receivers are always coveted in the draft because these types of plays give defensive coordinators nightmares.



A touchdown from Allen Robinson, although we can go back to complaining about Blake Bortles.  Notice the route by Robinson against Jackson here, because he attacks the angle in the route tree.  Instead of just running straight at Jackson and then running the fade route, Robinson starts off like he’s running an inside slant route, which causes Joseph to shift his feet to the inside.  The cornerback wants inside leverage in this position because if he gives up inside leverage to a big bodied receiver in the end zone for a slant route, it will usually lead to an easy touchdown.  Robinson with his route forces Jackson to move his feet to maintain inside leverage, before the receiver cuts outside.  The route creates the separation for what should be a standard text book fade route, but Bortles makes a bad throw.  The ball is too low, aimed at the chest of Robinson instead of being higher.  It doesn’t hurt the Jaguars in this case, but ideally the ball needs to be placed higher, so Jackson has absolutely no shot at defending the pass. 



I’m once again going to reference the Kyle Fuller article and notice Play 10 on that one, and then compare it to this play.  In that instance, Fuller makes a great play by drifting back with Antonio Brown and cutting off the passing lane.  In this instance, Joseph bites on the running back too early, which allows Robinson to run down the field and be wide open.  Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Blake Bortles just misses his receiver for an open pass and it all goes for naught. 


Allen Robinson at times has shown lackadaisical route running, which could be cause for concern in West Coast style systems which require precise route running and timing.  He also does have a slight penchant for dropping the pass, but it’s a small issue right now, and once again we can lean back on Bortles’ inaccuracies as a possible cause.  


The injury situation is the only reason why Robinson is even hitting the free agent market.  The receiver tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in the first game of the season, landing on injured reserve. 

What is the ACL?

Essentially, the femur sits atop the tibia in your knee, and during physical activity  they tend to move around.  The ACL is one of the ligaments that prevent the bones to be dislocated to the front, and it’s essential for running.  If the ligament is torn, there is more likely hood of dislocation.  Personally, I think of it like hinges on an oven door.  Without the hinges, yes you can close the door or open it, but the likelihood of the door coming out of place is substantially greater.  However, I’m not a doctor (although I did take pre-med at first in college before changing) so here are a couple of good articles to learn about it. 

Click Here For Link 1

Click Here For Link 2

Which Players have comeback from an ACL injury?

Tom Brady – Although it’s not like he’s running much anyway.

Adrian Peterson – He came back from the injury with vengeance.

Rob Gronkowski – He’s not the picture of health, but he’s still dominant and explosive.

Chris Harris Jr. – We saw him earlier in the post, and he has been just as explosive.

John Ross – He tore his ACL in college and then had a great year prior to being drafted. 

Jordy Nelson – He returned from an ACL injury to perform exceptionally well with Packers.

However, there is significant risk involved with ACL injuries, because the Jaguars are privy to this information as well.  This article from Vanderbilt details that running backs and wide receivers tend to fall off in their production after ACL injuries.  The counter argument being that the article is from 2006, so medical technology has evolved since then.  Therefore, there is concern that Robinson may not be the same player that he showed on tape, which is why the Jaguars are taking a risk with letting him hit free agency.   


Every team in the league will take Allen Robinson because he’s talented enough to be a No. 1 receiver.  The only real concern for me is the ACL injury and how explosive he will be afterwards.  There have been enough successful returns from the injury in the last few years to indicate that Robinson should resume his status as a No. 1 receiver.  It’s rare to have a receiver of his caliber hit the open market at a young age, and the only reason it is happening is because of the injury.  I don’t want to equate this to the Drew Brees situation as he left the Chargers, but it’s in the same ballpark.  A talented player suffers a horrible injury directly correlated to his position (Shoulder for Brees) and inexplicably hit free agency.  I don’t think Allen Robinson is the Drew Brees of wide receivers, but this is a rare opportunity to bring in a legitimate No. 1 receiver at a young age.  If he played with a good QB, instead of Blake Bortles, then Robinson would have been a perennial Pro-Bowl candidate.  If I’m the Titans, I try to go out of my way to recruit Robinson and working with Mariota out of a spread offense. 


 4 Year, $50 million contract, with front loaded cap money and cap hits.  Essentially, you are going to pay Robinson like a No. 1 receiver for the next two years regardless of injury history, and then protecting yourself for a long term decline with the front loaded cap hit, and lower dead money in Years 3 and 4 of the contract.  From Robinson’s perspective, he still makes No. 1 WR money in the next two years, coming back from the uncertainty of a major injury.  He sacrifices year 3-4 but those are his age 27-28 years, therefore he’s set up well for another mega-contract as long as he’s healthy.  If he returns to being a stud, the Titans (or any team) would be willing to extend him after Year 3 as well, so it’s a one year risk for Robinson. 

Thank you for checking in to another Off-Season Targets article.  Please, like, share, and subscribe to be up to date on all articles posted here.  It also helps my self assurance, if you are wondering. 

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