The Jaguars haven't been the subject of much hype over the past few seasons. That could change this season as their young players get another year of experience under their belt. One player in particular could be on the verge of stardom based on some recent reports out of Duval. Second-year wide receiver Allen Robinson has healed from the stress fracture in his foot that shortened his rookie season, and has been drawing rave reviews from his quarterback and local media alike.
"He's been unbelievable," Jags quarterback Blake Bortles said last week at the end of Jacksonville's three-day minicamp. "He's definitely a threat now in the red zone. ... He's physical. He can run and do everything out in the open field, so he's been fun to throw to."
His catches -- like this and this -- have popped up on Twitter and helped to boost the offseason hype around the uber-athletic Penn State product. It doesn't hurt that ESPN beat reporter Mike DiRocco noted recently that it's "evident [Robinson] is the Jaguars' best receiver," adding that "though the media was not allowed to report specifics about what we saw in OTAs, Robinson had numerous 'wow' catches and was the most impressive offensive player on the field."
This just feels like more than a trite offseason narrative, particularly because Robinson flashed his playmaker ability as a rookie.
Robinson, who ran 4.47 in the 40, jumped 42 inches in the vertical and leaped 11 feet in the broad jump at his pro day, burst onto the scene last year after Jacksonville got him in the second round, catching 48 passes for 548 yards and two touchdowns. For a stretch starting in Week 4, it was sort of the blind leading the blind with fellow rookie Blake Bortles throwing him passes, but just as the two were starting to get onto the same page, Robinson's season was cut short.
Last year, he ended on pace to catch 77 passes for 877 yards, and this season Robinson has a chance to match the hype that he's carrying into training camp.
I went back and watched all of Robinson's targets from his rookie year and came away fairly impressed. He moved around the formation but mostly played outside, on the line of scrimmage for Jacksonville and ran a variety of routes -- slants, out routes, a few screen passes and a few deeper developing routes. He was most often targeted in the short or intermediate zones, though, as Bortles struggled with accuracy when targeting Robinson deep. As a result, Robinson's yards per catch was a tepid 11.4, and he only had two touchdowns. Scoring wasn't exactly Jacksonville's biggest strength last year though, and Bortles struggled all season long.
It was interesting to watch Robinson so closely after watching his fellow second-year receiver with breakout potential, Davante Adams, because while Adams' most concerning issue was terrible concentration drops, Robinson was extremely solid in the hands department.
Robinson not only displayed good hands technique and fundaments, he showed vice-like grip strength once the ball hit his mitts. He was credited with only one drop on 76 targets as a rookie (according to ProFootballFocus), compared to four for Adams on 74 targets. I noticed that Adams lost control of a few more passes that were in his hands as he got hit by a defender, as well. Technically these may not be considered drops, but Robinson showed a toughness in holding on to the ball all the way through the catch on multiple occasions.
When your quarterback is still figuring out some things with mechanics and accuracy, it helps to have a 6'3 guy who can jump 42 inches -- catch radius is a real factor.
Toughness in the air
One thing that Robinson has in common with Adams is that they're both very tough players in the air. Robinson showed the ability on multiple occasions to go up for a catch and take a big hit. You'll often see receivers shy away from extending themselves knowing a hit is coming, but Robinson showed a lot of courage on a handful of plays.
This is just one play, but he knows he's going into the safety's domain here and shows no hesitation.
This is one area that Gus Bradley mentioned is key for Robinson next year.
"The challenge is for him to play angry," Bradley said. "To play where he's competing to get the ball, competing in all his routes. I think he is extremely competitive. He's got a 40-plus vertical jump, and we want to be able to throw it up to him and I know he's going to come down with the ball. I believe he has that and hopefully we see that."
There wasn't a ton of that deep downfield in year one -- most of his "up in the air" plays came on quick slants and post patterns in the intermediate area -- but those videos linked above show how his athletic talents can be used in the red zone.
Athleticism really shows up at times
Speaking of athleticism, it's hard to ignore the potential here. His 40 time at the Combine (4.6) probably caused him to fall a little bit (he ran 4.47 at his pro day), but the short-area explosiveness is the big thing that you can see on tape.
Additionally, the athleticism shows up in his ability to get off the line of scrimmage. This is one of those skills that can be tough for college players to quickly pick up in the pros because of spread-out systems in school that allow them to get free releases. Robinson played in a pro-style system at Penn State and he hit the ground running in the pros.
This is what it looks like when a cornerback badly misses a jam. Great jab-step inside release by Robinson, who then catches a deep pass toward the sideline.
Again, look at how he gets the cornerback below to completely bite on the outside fake, and a last-ditch facemask grab by the defender can't even stop the route from being successful.
As I mentioned above, Robinson didn't get a ton of chances to "go up and get it" in his first year in Jacksonville. He showed some toughness outside though, and that, combined with Bradley's comments, lead you to believe that the Jags will look to feature him in that role more next year.
New teammate Davon House has compared Robinson to "a young Brandon Marshall," if that helps you frame the type of player Jacksonville had in mind when they drafted him.
Robinson appears to have embraced the challenges that Bradley has laid out for him.
"In college, I always had a chip on my shoulder," Robinson said after the most recent minicamp. "Last year, I kind of relaxed a little bit. It was just that when you get into the league, you're just trying to find your niche. For me, just trying to find my way through that first season. I think that's why I fell off that a little bit. But I'm back on it this year. I'm learning to play with the right amount of anger."
He doesn't want to be that 11.4 yards per catch guy this season, either.
"I want to be more of a big play asset to my team this year," he said. "I caught some short routes, some third down stuff last year. But I really want to have that big-play capability."