Allen Robinson’s lost season nears an end
Expected to be a go-to receiver for Andy Dalton or Justin Fields, Robinson instead became an afterthought. His average of 35.3 yards per game is less than half of his career high of 78.1 last season.
Allen Robinson’s nightmare is almost over.
The Bears wide receiver will finish a disappointing season — and likely wrap up a four-year stint with the team — against the Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Robinson missed virtually the entire 2017 season with the Jaguars after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament in the opener, but this season might rival even that as a frustrating test of resilience.
A year ago, Robinson was finishing a second consecutive 1,000-yard season — 102 receptions for 1,250 yards and six touchdowns after having 98 receptions for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019. At 27, he was in line for a bonanza as a free agent. But the Bears, unable to come to an agreement with him on a long-term contract, applied the franchise tag. At Robinson’s age, it didn’t seem to be the worst deal. He still made $17.9 million in 2021 and would be a free agent again in 2022.
But that’s where it all went south. Figured to be a go-to receiver for Andy Dalton or Justin Fields, Robinson instead mysteriously became an afterthought in coach Matt Nagy’s offense. He enters Sunday with 36 receptions for 388 yards and one touchdown in 11 games. His average of 35.3 yards per game is less than half of his career-high average of 78.1 last season. Second-year receiver Darnell Mooney leads the Bears with 69 receptions for 929 yards and four touchdowns.
You couldn’t blame Robinson for feeling a little star-crossed. On his biggest play all season — a 39-yard reception against the Steelers as part of a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that marked a high point for Fields and momentarily gave the Bears a 27-26 lead — Robinson suffered a hamstring injury that cost him three games. After returning against the Packers — and catching just two passes for 14 yards — he tested positive for the coronavirus and missed two more games.
He’ll enter free agency with less leverage than he had a year ago — not that it’s his fault. Robinson’s decline is more likely a symptom of a failed offense. He has produced in bad offenses with “developing” quarterbacks his entire career, so it’s probably not him.
The polar opposite of the “diva” receiver, Robinson has resisted opportunities — at least so far — to air any grievances publicly when asked what has gone wrong.
“That’s not for me to speak on right now,” he said last week after coming off the reserve/COVID-19 list. “That’ll be touched on at some point. Right now, it’s just about figuring out . . . how I can do my job to the best of my ability. Whatever’s being asked of me, that’s my focus. Further down the line, things are going to be addressed. But not right now.”
After last season, Robinson was on pace to break the Bears’ franchise record for receiving yards (5,059 by Johnny Morris) by the middle of next season. He’ll likely leave without the record but with his good name intact.
“You just can’t say enough about Allen Robinson the person and who he is as a player,” receivers coach Mike Furrey said last month. “He’s done a great job [while he was injured] helping the guys out. I even think he has enjoyed it a little bit watching Mooney grow up, because of their relationship.
“That’s a unique story that not a lot of people talk about. You have a big fish, and then you have a fifth-round draft pick who comes in and is looking up to the big fish. And then, all of a sudden, they start respecting each other.”