ROBIN­SON RE­CEIV­ING AT­TEN­TION

Go-to guy on of­fense quickly climb­ing bears’ all-time charts but could use some help

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - BY JA­SON LIESER | Jlieser@suntimes.com | @ja­sonLieser

As the Bears go into a season with ram­pant un­cer­tainty, they know they can count on wide re­ceiver Allen Robin­son.

He re­mains the most re­li­able, pro­duc­tive player in their of­fense, a guy who seems to do ev­ery­thing right at all times — ex­actly what the team’s young, un­steady wide re­ceivers need as an ex­am­ple.

The Bears can even de­pend on Robin­son to avoid stir­ring con­tro­versy about the long over­due con­tract ex­ten­sion he hasn’t got­ten.

“I’m not re­ally too fo­cused on that right now,” he said Fri­day. “My main fo­cus is on camp. You know, we have a game in about a month. What­ever happens with that happens.”

Bears gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace of­ten fi­nal­izes ex­ten­sions dur­ing the pre­sea­son, but it’s odd that Robin­son’s wasn’t done months ago. It’s no se­cret he wants to be with the team long-term af­ter say­ing it out­right last season and pub­licly stat­ing his goal of be­ing the fran­chise’s all-time lead­ing re­ceiver.

Given the Bears’ T-for­ma­tion tra­di­tion and gen­eral aver­sion to a func­tional of­fense, that mark is ac­tu­ally reach­able for Robin­son within three years. Af­ter just 29 games in Chicago, he al­ready ranks 39th in team his­tory in yards re­ceiv­ing and trails all-time leader Johnny Mor­ris by a lit­tle over 3,000. For a fran­chise that has been around for a cen­tury, that’s all it would take.

“As far as how com­fort­able I am here and how much I like it here, I def­i­nitely would fore­see spend­ing many more years here,” Robin­son told the Sun-Times in De­cem­ber.

As it stands, he would play out the fi­nal season of his three-year, $42 mil­lion con­tract and hit free agency in March. His $14 mil­lion av­er­age an­nual pay ranks 18th at his po­si­tion.

Robin­son has been so good for so long that it’s easy to for­get he’s still 26 (at least for an­other week). He’s still in his prime and would be well worth the in­vest­ment of an­other big con­tract. For a rough idea of what he could draw on the open mar­ket, Vik­ings wide re­ceiver Adam Thie­len lags be­hind Robin­son’s pro­duc­tion across the board and got a fouryear, $64.2 mil­lion deal a year ago.

Pace gam­bled on Robin­son com­ing off a torn an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in the spring of 2018 and has more than got­ten his money’s worth. He was 13th among NFL re­ceivers in yards (1,147) and touch­downs (seven) and sixth in catches (98), all while play­ing for a team that pro­duced the eighth-worst passer rat­ing in the league at 85.2.

Mitch Tru­bisky might not be his quar­ter­back any­more, of course. Robin­son was as nim­ble in dis­cussing the quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion — it pits his guy for the last two years against new­comer Nick Foles — as he is catch­ing a ball near the side­line.

His ini­tial im­pres­sion of Foles is that he’s liv­ing up to ev­ery­thing peo­ple have said about him — “a re­ally good team­mate, he’s a com­peti­tor, just all-around a good player” — through­out his nine-year ca­reer. Robin­son men­tioned how sharp Tru­bisky’s throws have been, too, and added, “You can just tell when he steps onto the field the things that he sees and stuff, that happens a lot faster.”

He also re­peated a line the Bears have been de­liv­er­ing all off­sea­son, that the of­fense needs to be “ex­e­cut­ing no mat­ter who’s un­der cen­ter and just try­ing to make plays.” In Robin­son’s case, it’s prob­a­bly true that it doesn’t mat­ter who plays quar­ter­back. He’ll pro­duce ei­ther way, which is why he’s so valu­able.

Any con­ver­sa­tion about his ca­reer needs to in­clude that he posted 1,000-yard sea­sons with both Blake Bor­tles and Tru­bisky throw­ing to him. You could put a man in the Hall of Fame for that alone.

But be­yond that, Robin­son is the ideal tu­tor for up­starts An­thony Miller, Dar­nell Mooney and Javon Wims. All three are ey­ing a big role this season, and they could in­crease their chances by pay­ing close at­ten­tion to Robin­son.

“He prac­tices how you’re sup­posed to prac­tice,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He takes notes and watches film how you’re sup­posed to . . . he gets with the quar­ter­back dur­ing prac­tice and talks about de­tails, and then when he plays on Sun­days, he pro­duces.

“He’s a great men­tor for all these young kids we have on this team and . . . he does it con­sis­tently ev­ery sin­gle day. Ev­ery sin­gle day.”

If one or two of them — Miller is the one to watch — emerge as a com­ple­men­tary piece in the pass­ing game, it would make Robin­son’s job eas­ier. He cer­tainly en­joyed the op­por­tu­nity that came with be­ing tar­geted so fre­quently (28 per­cent of the Bears’ passes went his way), but he might be more ef­fec­tive with those chances if de­fenses aren’t able to zero in on him.

If Miller has a breakthrou­gh season, Jimmy Gra­ham or Cole Kmet be­come a threat at tight end, or run­ning back David Mont­gomery be­comes more of a pass catcher, that would only help Robin­son. But if none of that ma­te­ri­al­izes, he’ll still get the job done. He al­ways does. ✶

MORRY GASH/AP

Allen Robin­son, who car­ried the Bears’ pass­ing game in 2019 with 98 catches for 1,147 yards and seven touch­downs, is head­ing into the fi­nal season of his three-year, $42 mil­lion con­tract.

PAUL SANCYA/AP

Allen Robin­son (12) could use a bounce-back season from Mitch Tru­bisky (10) to boost his game even more.

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