Allen Robinson's Problems Go Beyond Blake Bortles

Robinson has struggled immensely to start the season, but it's not all on his quarterback.

Whenever a wide receiver as stupidly talented as Allen Robinson struggles, it's easy to pin his problems on the throwing arm of his quarterback. When that quarterback is Blake Bortles, it's a no brainer.

There's one major issue with this narrative. When you dig into the metrics, Robinson isn't just lagging relative to the league; his production is falling well behind that of his own Jacksonville Jaguars teammates, who also face the wrath of Bortles' inefficiencies.

Ruh roh.

Let's take a look at what the numbers are saying about Robinson this year and why his issues may run a bit deeper than just his quarterback.

Vanishing Efficiency

If we want to separate a wide receiver from the struggles of his quarterback, the easiest way to do so is by comparing him to the other receivers on the team. As mentioned above, that's not going to be a flattering comparison for Robinson.

To show this, we'll be using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP), the metric we use to track the efficiency of both teams and players. For wide receivers, our main focuses will be Reception NEP -- which tracks the expected points added on each reception -- and Target NEP, which illustrates the expected points added or subtracted whenever the player is targeted.

The table below shows these metrics for each pass catcher on the Jaguars with at least 20 targets. The most telling stat will be Target NEP per target, which basically shows the value of each pass that goes that player's way, and this is where we see Robinson fall behind.

PlayerTargetsReception NEPTarget NEPTarget NEP per Target
Allen Robinson7039.451.370.02
Allen Hurns5631.368.250.15
Marqise Lee4129.2112.660.31
Julius Thomas3418.618.630.25
T.J. Yeldon312.60-4.50-0.15
Marcedes Lewis209.225.220.26

If you're an A-Rob lover in need of a pick-me-up, just focus on that T.J. Yeldon number for a bit. It could be worse.

Outside of Yeldon, though, Bortles has struggled most when targeting Robinson. Marqise Lee's efficiency has been fine, and while Allen Hurns' numbers are also low, he's still out-pacing his fellow Allen.

This isn't a case where the numbers have it out for Robinson, either. His Target NEP per target was totally acceptable last year at 0.36, putting him well ahead of Julius Thomas and just a bit behind Hurns. Something has just gone catastrophically wrong this year for Robinson, and it should be starting to worry the Jaguars' coaching staff.

The difficult part of this is trying to figure out why Robinson's marks have fallen so far from last year and relative to his teammates.

The first thought here may be that Bortles is forcing the ball to Robinson in order to feed his seemingly best asset, potentially resulting in extra interceptions. Those picks would be reflected in his Target NEP and could present us with a response here.

To an extent, that is partially true. Bortles has thrown three interceptions while targeting Robinson this year, resulting in -12.84 Target NEP. However, he has also thrown three interceptions while targeting Lee, giving him -10.60 Target NEP, but Lee's overall metrics still easily surpass those of Robinson. It's a factor, but it's not what's suffocating Robinson's numbers.

Once we get to the red zone, though, we start to see some more clear answers. Robinson absolutely dominated there last year, turning 21 targets into 12 touchdowns, and it showed through in his NEP metrics. This year, it's a different story.

Check out this table, which compares Robinson's marks to those of his teammates in the two seasons. He went from being an exception to the problem to being a major contributor.

PlayerTargetsReception NEPTarget NEPTarget NEP per Target
Robinson in 20152128.423.951.14
Teammates in 20157038.11-0.250.00
Robinson in 2016125.91-2.71-0.23
Teammates in 20163013.56-4.07-0.14

The first conclusion here is that Bortles is legitimately a horrendous passer in the red zone. The second is that Robinson's point of strength from 2015 has suddenly disappeared.

It could be that the defense simply knows what's coming, loading up coverage on Robinson to ensure he can't beat them in the red zone. However, Robinson's target market share in the red zone this year is slightly lower than it was last year, meaning that hasn't really been the path Bortles has taken. And when he has, the results have not been good.

With Robinson, there are plenty of areas you can flesh out as struggle points for the season. Last year, that wasn't really the case. Whatever the reasoning, it's clear that something's not right in Jacksonville, and we should probably stop simply assigning all of the blame to Bortles.


We know that Robinson is an immense talent at wide receiver. He showed enough his first two years in the league to prove that, and nothing this year has said otherwise. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't bear some of the responsibility for the Jaguars' struggles in the passing game.

If this were simply a product of Bortles dragging him down, then the rest of the Jaguars' receivers would also be posting wretched efficiency numbers. They're certainly not great, but both Hurns and Lee are running laps around Robinson in that department, and it means we're looking at a bigger issue here.

While part of the blame goes to Bortles' interceptions while targeting Robinson, we also have to look at the shifts in the red zone. Robinson has gone from being other-worldly there to being a detriment who is underperforming relative to his teammates. It's hard to decipher whether that's his fault or Bortles', but they need to start compensating for these issues in one way or another.

Robinson is good enough to climb out of this hole and excel even with a bad quarterback. But right now, he's not playing that way. And until we see adjustments by the coaching staff to compensate for these inefficiencies, we should probably expect the frustrations and difficulties to persist.