When receiver Allen Robinson signed with the Bears in March 2018, he slowly was working his injured left knee back toward football movements. He wasn’t yet sprinting and was just beginning to jump explosively as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Fast-forward a year. In March 2019, Robinson flew to Huntington Beach, California, to work with Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky. He and fellow receivers Taylor Gabriel, Javon Wims and Marvin Hall caught passes in the Southern California sun, fine-tuning the subtleties of each passing route.
‘‘For us, being able to touch base on things before we even get back, I think that’s always a big thing,’’ Robinson said Wednesday. ‘‘Being able to not only get more familiar with the offense but to build that camaraderie, as far as going out there with each other. Just trying to pick back up where we left off.’’
Where Robinson left off is where he wants to be. His 143 receiving yards in the Bears’ playoff loss to the Eagles set a franchise postseason record. His 10 catches tied the Bears’ playoff mark.
His longest catch of the season came on a 45-yard slant-and-go with a minute left in the third quarter. On the Bears’ last four possessions, he caught five passes for 112 yards.
‘‘That’s what I’m here for,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m trying to create big plays and trying to make this offense as explosive as possible.’’
That starts in the offseason. After not playing until training camp last year, Robinson said he appreciates the value of practice film, even during organized team activities.
‘‘Rather than doing it in camp and then preseason [games are] two weeks out and trying to adjust on the fly,’’ he said.
Robinson said he sees the six weeks between the end of mandatory minicamp and the start of training camp as an opportunity to improve, too — perhaps during more throwing sessions with Trubisky.
‘‘I think we’re able to build that timing and chemistry even more throughout the offseason that we kind of missed last offseason with him rehabbing,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘He’s one of the receivers that sets the bar and sets the tempo for the receiver room. He makes it super-competitive. Everyone kind of watches him. He handles himself like a pro. And he knows exactly what he’s doing on every single play.
‘‘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. I think it’s just gonna help our ‘dynamic duo’ and help push the other guys to get even better all offseason long.’’
As far as the tweaks to the offense this offseason — the Bears added running backs Mike Davis and David Montgomery, who figure to share the rushing load, as well as receivers Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley and Hall — nothing looms larger than Robinson with a full offseason to train. He said he has been able to move to different receiver spots around the field, adding a new wrinkle to the offense.
Robinson called last season, in which he caught 55 passes for 754 yards and four touchdowns in 13 regular-season games, the most efficient of his career. There’s room, however, for him to be more prolific.
While coach Matt Nagy’s offense always will seek to spread the ball around, the Bears are paying Robinson like one of the top receivers in the league. His $15 million cap hit in 2019 trails only the Buccaneers’ Mike Evans, the Chiefs’ Sammy Watkins, the Browns’ Odell Beckham Jr., the Rams’ Brandin Cooks and the Bengals’ A.J. Green, according to Spotrac.com.
‘‘Looking as to where I’m at right now compared to last year, obviously, is light-years away,” he said. ‘‘I wasn’t participating. Being able to go out here — to be at different positions, see different looks and things like that — has gotten me better.’’