Allen Robinson Is Already in Mid-Season Form
Football came back last night. While much of it was played by backups, third stringers, and future practice squad guys, there was a brief period of time in the beginning of most games with starters on the field.
Many use preseason games, especially the first one, to get warmed up and back into the groove of playing football against live competition. Many do that. Allen Robinson did not -- because he was already in midseason form.
It’s usually unwise to make too much out of a few snaps during the first week of the preseason, especially if it’s someone we haven’t seen much of before. New Orleans’s Michael Thomas made some nice plays in his debut, but we should hold off on anointing him a top wide receiver until there’s a larger sample.
But then there’s the case of guys doing things we’ve seen them do before. Robinson is one of those guys, and he was up to Allen Robinson things Thursday night against the Jets.
On Jacksonville's sixth offensive play of the game, Blake Bortles threw a back-shoulder pass to Robinson, who was covered by cornerback Buster Skrine. Robinson used his hands -- legally -- to get around Skrine and used his body to block the defender out to come down with the ball. This is receiver technique at its finest and a gain of 19 yards.
A little later, Robinson ran an out route, and the pass by Bortles was a little high. Of course, that didn't matter for Robinson, who turned his body, leapt over Dee Milliner, turned back around, and got both feet in bounds before going to the ground for a gain of 16 yards.
On the next play from scrimmage, the Jaguars decide to go deep. That’s not new for the Jags -- they led all teams in play of 20 or more yards last season with 80. They tied with the Saints for 72 of them coming through the air. Robinson worked his way down the middle against Milliner again, who this time is completely lost in coverage.
Milliner tried to recover just in time to take a swat at the ball in the way a late defender tries to run and swipe at a wide open three-pointer in basketball, but Robinson won at the catch point and again turned his body to secure the ball before going to the ground. It was a gain of 45.
Robinson finished the night with those 3 catches for 80 yards. They were the only three targets that went his way, and he made great plays on all three.
Robinson was one of the best wide receivers in the league last season by our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. NEP measures the value of each play on the field based on how an average team would be expected to perform according to historical data. Among 32 receivers who saw at least 100 passes thrown their way, Robinson ranked sixth in Reception NEP per target.
He was the worst among the top-10 in catch rate -- just 53 percent -- but less of that was on him than the accuracy of his quarterback. As these plays show, if the ball comes in Robinson’s general direction, there’s a good chance he’s coming down with it.
None of this means the Jaguars are suddenly going to be an efficient passing offense -- they were 28th in Adjusted NEP per play through the air despite having two receivers individually in the top six -- or that they're going to make the playoffs.
But if there was any thought Robinson might not be able to replicate or improve upon what he did last season, maybe it’s time to think again.