Bears must make chicago allen town

WIDE RE­CEIVER DE­SERVES LONG-TERM CON­TRACT AF­TER PUTTING TO­GETHER BIG YEAR DE­SPITE BEARS’ QB IS­SUES

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

Allen Robin­son’s twisted an­kle was the most har­row­ing in­jury of Bears train­ing camp. Don’t worry. Robin­son is fine. He al­ways is. He missed a lit­tle over a week and al­ready has been back for a few days. The team seemed to be hold­ing him out as a pre­cau­tion more than any­thing. Bar­ring any­thing else, he’ll be full-go for the opener.

But his ab­sence il­lu­mi­nated some­thing alarm­ing: If Robin­son misses time, the Bears are in big trou­ble.

As an aside, it’s in­ex­cus­able if they kick off the sea­son with­out giv­ing Robin­son a longterm con­tract. That needs to get done. Yes­ter­day.

No po­si­tion group is the same with­out its No. 1, but ev­ery­thing looked out of place with the re­ceivers dur­ing Robin­son’s in­jury.

Go­ing into a game with Robin­son, fol­lowed by An­thony Miller and a col­lec­tion of Dar­nell Mooney, Ted Ginn and Javon Wims be­hind him sounds OK. But slide ev­ery­body up a spot, and it’s wor­ri­some.

The Bears were warned about this last sea­son, when they got all the way to Thanks­giv­ing with­out any­one other than Robin­son top­ping 80 yards re­ceiv­ing in a game.

Miller was in Year 2 of the coach­ing staff openly ad­mit­ting it couldn’t trust him to run sharp and/or cor­rect routes, and it took un­til Week 12 to click. He erupted with nine catches for 140 yards against the Lions, the high point of a five-game stretch in which he av­er­aged 86.2 yards per game and had two touch­downs.

In one of those games, he got sloppy and over­ran a route by two yards, lead­ing to Mitch Tru­bisky’s throw­ing an in­ter­cep­tion against the Rams. When you get tired of hear­ing about im­pre­cise route-run­ning, re­mem­ber that the con­se­quences are real.

Aside from his late-sea­son spark, the other two-thirds of Miller’s sea­son of­fered lit­tle ev­i­dence that he could val­i­date gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace’s move to trade up and draft him 51st over­all in 2018.

Miller opened with four catches in the first four games, un­der­cut­ting po­si­tion coach Mike Fur­rey’s train­ing-camp pro­nounce­ment that he no longer had to hold his breath “hop­ing that he was go­ing to go to the right place.” Af­ter a mod­est bump in pro­duc­tion, he went on to have four more games of one or no re­cep­tions.

While he still has room to grow, the idea of go­ing into a game with Miller as the No. 1 re­ceiv­ing op­tion is un­set­tling.

So is the hy­po­thet­i­cal of thrust­ing Mooney (a rookie), Ginn (age 35) or Wims (22 ca­reer catches) into the No. 2 spot. It’s un­clear where those three and Ri­ley Ri­d­ley fall in the peck­ing or­der be­hind Robin­son and Miller, and coach Matt Nagy will prob­a­bly mix and match them as long as he has Robin­son out there.

And he usu­ally does. Robin­son played ev­ery game last sea­son and was on the field for 94% of the of­fen­sive snaps — the high­est of any skill player.

He was prob­a­bly the only good thing about the of­fense and some­how put to­gether a sea­son of 98 catches, 1,147 yards and seven touch­downs. It was the eighth-high­est yardage to­tal in fran­chise his­tory and the most by a Bears re­ceiver since Al­shon Jef­fery in 2013.

Robin­son did all that de­spite Bears quar­ter­backs — mainly Tru­bisky, but also Chase Daniel — com­bin­ing to fin­ish 25th in the NFL in passer rat­ing. It’s not to­tally sur­pris­ing given that Robin­son pulled off a 1,400-yard sea­son in Jack­sonville with Blake Bor­tles as his quar­ter­back in 2015. He pro­duces no mat­ter what, and that’s rare.

He ac­counted for 26 per­cent of the Bears’ catches and 23 per­cent of their to­tal of­fense last sea­son. That kind of con­tri­bu­tion would be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to re­place in 2021, and that’s the les­son man­age­ment needs to take away from his brief hia­tus.

While Robin­son’s in­jury wasn’t se­ri­ous, it gave the Bears a glimpse of life with­out him. If noth­ing else, it should’ve scared them into writ­ing him a blank check. A team with very lit­tle cer­tainty on of­fense shouldn’t let its most de­pend­able play­maker ven­ture into free agency.

Robin­son is only 27, making this per­fect tim­ing for both sides to lock in a con­tract ex­ten­sion. For his part, Robin­son has made it ab­so­lutely clear he wants to re-sign. But if the Bears don’t of­fer him what he’s worth, he can test the mar­ket in March.

The Bears might be com­fort­able tak­ing that risk, but they saw what’s at stake when they spent a week with­out Robin­son. It should be clearer than ever that they need to keep him and — un­less Miller makes dra­matic im­prove­ment this sea­son — get him some help. ✶

DY­LAN BUELL/GETTY IM­AGES

Where would the Bears have been on of­fense in 2019 if not for wide re­ceiver Allen Robin­son’s con­tri­bu­tions? Robin­son, 27, caught 98 passes for 1,147 yards and seven touch­downs.

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