‘He’s back’: Why the Bears are getting what they wanted in WR Allen Robinson
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Wide receiver Allen Robinson was enjoying his morning coffee Wednesday when coach Matt Nagy interrupted him. Nagy had just watched Robinson’s 30-yard catch off the helmet of Giants cornerback B.W. Webb.
“I did not see any TV copies or anything like that; I watched it on my cut-up,” Nagy said. “I asked him, ‘Man, I wonder if that would end up making the ‘SportsCenter’ Top 10?’ ”
Robinson looked up with a smile.
“Yeah,” he told Nagy.
“What number was it?” Nagy asked.
“Is that right? Was it?”
It was on Monday. Forgive Nagy for not having the time to watch national highlights. He has an 8-4 team to coach and Rams superstar Aaron Donald to game-plan against this week.
Robinson’s catch was significant for a player who was signed to do exactly that after missing nearly all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He’s proving to be worth the Bears’ three-year, $42 million investment.
“He’s back,” wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said.
Robinson made his first impressive reception — a 12-yarder in which he dragged his right toes to complete the catch before going out of bounds — against the Giants right in front of Furrey on the Bears’ sideline.
“I had the best view in the house,” Furrey said.
The Bears hurried to the line after Robinson’s catch, fearing that the Giants would challenge it. Furrey, though, wasn’t worried. He saw what happened.
“We practice that every week,” Furrey said. “Get your one foot down, drag the next and stabilize the ball. . . . He’s becoming that leader by example, which is what we were hoping would happen.”
It was the type of catch that No. 1 receivers are expected to make for their quarterbacks. Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is better because he has DeAndre Hopkins to throw to, and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes thrives because of Tyreek Hill.
Nagy’s offense doesn’t require a bona fide No. 1 wideout — five players should finish with more than 500 yards — but it undoubtedly helps. Robinson, who has 41 catches for 573 yards and four touchdowns, is the do-everything receiver that Mitch Trubisky needs. He can simply make catches that others on the roster can’t.
Getting to this point has been a process for Robinson. He not only had to regain his form physically after his torn ACL but learn Nagy’s nuanced offense. It also didn’t help that he strained his groin and missed two games in the middle of his comeback season.
“He’s starting to get more comfortable in our offense,” Furrey said. “He’s starting to understand the ‘why’ of what we do. He’s starting to catch the ‘whys.’ It’s a big deal when you start seeing what you’re supposed to do, then how the ball is coming. You get a way better feel of routes, the details and where you’re supposed to be.”
For Nagy, Robinson’s understanding and his No. 1-receiver mindset show up on the sideline.
“I’m not going to tell you when, but there have been a couple of times when he’s said to me on the field, ‘Hey, give me this,’ ” Nagy said. “And the very next play, I give it to him. So I love that: ‘Give that to me.’ When players are feeling that way and they want something, I want to know, and we weren’t doing that the first couple of weeks. Now we’re getting to that part.”
If the Bears make a playoff run, Robinson figures to be featured prominently in Nagy’s game plans. And if he continues to make catches that show up on ‘‘SportsCenter,’’ it will be a starring role.
“Whenever I’m accomplishing and doing things that they brought me here to do, it definitely feels good being able to make those plays that I’ve made all of my career,” Robinson said. “But whenever you make those plays, it feels like the first time you did it. It’s been exciting.”