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Allen Robinson is the game changing wide receiver the Titans need

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Apparently the Jaguars might let Allen Robinson walk, and a certain AFC South rival could use him.

In 2016, Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett once said of quarterback Blake Bortles: “He sometimes makes the easy plays look difficult and the difficult plays look easy.”

That just about sums it up.

Few who have worked with Bortles know how accurate that statement is more than receiver Allen Robinson. Before his 2017 season ended prematurely with a torn ACL on his lone catch in week 1, Robinson was having a lustrous career in Jacksonville. In 2015, he caught 80 passes for 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, tied with Seattle Seahawks’ Doug Baldwin for the lead that year.

2016 was where things took a big step down statistically. That season was infamous for the complete breakdown of Bortles’ mechanics, leading to a further delayed throwing motion. This fatal flaw allowed defenders to easily breakup or pick off passes because of the late timing from the quarterback. As such, Robinson was put in a position where he could not replicate his stunning sophomore season.

Recently, Robinson, who played all four years of his original contract in Jacksonville has been making headlines not just because of rumors spreading that the team may tag Marqise Lee over Robinson, but also because of his activity on Twitter. This includes a vague tweet heavily implying the Jaguars will let him walk in free agency.

Further adding the fuel to the controversy came from his new avi, changed to a photo of him wearing a Chicago Cubs jersey. Is it a sign Robinson wants to go to the Windy City and play with the Chicago Bears? Perhaps, but we can’t know for certain.

Now, last week I mentioned the possibility of the Tennessee Titans signing Sammy Watkins. Of course, Watkins is not on the best of terms with Titans wide receivers coach Rob Moore, who was part of the Doug Marrone coaching staff in Buffalo that abruptly left after the 2014 season (You know the drill: A loophole in his contract stated in the event of a change in ownership, he may leave the Buffalo Bills. And he did.), so there’s a certainty that Watkins in Nashville probably won’t occur.

Naturally, Robinson is the next best thing. While coming off an ACL tear may express some concerns, the fifth-year receiver will be 25 in August. Will he be rusty and experience comfort issues getting back on the field? Absolutely. Will it be worth it in the long run? Robinson’s resume suggests yes.

With $51,956,490 in cap space, the Titans have the second largest of any playoff team from 2017 (Los Angeles Rams), as well as the 9th largest overall. And with Robinson reportedly asking for $10-12 million a year and $25 million guaranteed (via Roster Watch), the Titans can easily afford signing a top tier receiver if he hits the market.

And if they do, they’ll be getting a player that’s worth way more than what he’s asking.

Yes, I know, I’m as enticed as you are.

Allen Robinson’s 2015 season is one of the absolute best I’ve ever seen from a receiver. Playing with a widely inaccurate quarterback that cannot run a vertical offense should’ve made his stats pedestrian that year, yet thanks to his virtuoso ability, he and Allen Hurns were able to carry Bortles throughout the year and have him heavily rely on them.

Like a ninja, Robinson’s awareness of the circumstances around him has come through years of training and hard work. He is as technical as he is stylish. On this play, he works the double move on then Miami Dolphin Brent Grimes, and it is here that the ball is thrown to him. Grimes is only 5’10 (compared to Robinson’s 6’3), but a lesser receiver would invite him in to disrupt the pass.

Robinson understands this. He knows Grimes is behind him when he’s approaching the catch point. He throws his hands backwards, boxing out Grimes and preventing him from getting in front of him, plants his feet, and launches in the air, collecting the jump ball, resulting in a catch that he makes look routine.

Surprisingly, this was an accurate throw from Bortles. That doesn’t mean the 2015 season wasn’t filled with plays that suggested otherwise.

Now let’s replace Allen Robinson with Harry Douglas and have some REAL fun...

It’s no secret that Bortles is careless with his mechanics dropping back under pressure. That’s not to suggest he doesn’t actually care, but rather that he has no idea how to prosper mechanically under duress. He back pedals this one and underthrows a floater in Robinson’s direction in the slot.

The reason I focus on the mechanics is because if Bortles set his feet without fading away, the ball would travel farther in the air. The defensive back is in perfect position to intercept the pass despite Robinson being able to easily beat him. Again, the receiver plants his feet and rescues the defense from coming back onto the field with a terrific snag.

His ball skills and hands are phenomenal, perhaps top five in the league at full health, but Robinson’s gravity is also a key aspect of this play. His movement in the air never drifts too far— as if he were some sort of ball magnet— and he uses his strong hands to overwhelm the defensive back. Robinson also understands he’s going to get hit, yet sacrifices his body and provides great ball security as he gets drilled.

It’s great coverage, there’s just nothing you can do when you’re facing a receiver that talented.

Of course, you can have all the pass catching skills you want. It doesn’t matter if you can’t separate on a good route. Last year, the Titans receivers generally struggled to create such separation, but the possibility of signing Robinson, they’ll be able to get a receiver that can do that and then some.

Future Laker. Wait wrong sport...

Much like DeAndre Hopkins, Robinson’s route running gets lost amidst the talk of his hands. (His route running and speed in the past have looked superior to Hopkins’ in addition.) On this play, Robinson creates the illusion that he’s running a comeback route. The corner bites, and the receiver pushes off and bursts away. The free safety is not in a position where he can dominate Robinson, and as Robinson continues to run downfield, he is easily in front of the FS and pulls in the jump ball.

When the Titans signed Eric Decker in 2017, fans were expecting a receiver that could dominate in the red zone and compliment a quarterback in Marcus Mariota who has been historically dominate in this area to start this career. Not only did the Titans coaching staff misuse him in this sense, but Decker was constantly unreliable with hands, dropping numerous accurate throws from Mariota.

This is where Robinson, one of the absolute best red zone receivers in the league, comes into play.

Wide receiver coaches call this the Hospital Route.

Defenses understand how dangerous Robinson is inside the red zone, and yet he still had 18 red zone touchdowns between 2015 and 2016, the most from any receiver in that span. Really, it’s as simple as him being able to showcase phenomenal route running and ball skills in tight spots on the field, and that’s what red zone receiving ability specializes in.

That’s why this play is so spectacular. Robinson is double covered by the corner in man coverage and the high safety in zone. As his route gets inside the end zone, the receiver notices a gap inside at the middle of the field. Robinson takes the time to use a double move, faking a post route to the left corner of the end zone before pushing off with his left foot and freeing himself from double coverage. It’s a simple move, yet it’s executed so perfectly, making the touchdown throw from Bortles all too easy.

Simply put, Robinson would give Mariota and the Titans the red zone monster they’ve been dying to have.

Big 10 Speed doesn’t have a nice ring to it, but that’s what this is.

To a lesser extent, if the Titans also need a guy that can pick up quick yards after the catch, Robinson also has the speed and acceleration while transforming into YAC mode— highlighted on this play— to do so.

Putting up 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns with a quarterback that was constantly throwing inaccurate yet was still seeing his passes caught was a monumental feat from Robinson. At least here Bortles was throwing it far enough that it was in the area of Robinson, giving him chances to bail his quarterback out.

Then, in 2016, Bortles’ mechanics took a gigantic nosedive down, and we already know, that resulted in worse stats from his #1 WR. Robinson’s hands weren’t quite as reliable, as he dropped a few passes he’s expected to catch, but he did all he could to bail an even worse version of Bortles.

For some reason Robinson wasn’t 12’5 on this play so it’s his fault the ball wasn’t caught.

Bortles is one of the slowest quarterbacks in the league when it comes to processing the field and getting the ball out of his hands. He is by no means a quarterback that can anticipate when a receiver is about to get open, instead needing his receiver to show that he’s open so that he can get rid of the ball. (Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing.)

This shows up on the above throw. Robinson’s speed beats the corner, and Bortles notices about three hours after it happened. If this was processed quicker, we might get an accurate throw, but that’s giving this quarterback (excuse me: postseason legend Blake Bortles) too much credit. Because the ball is thrown so late, it’s under thrown.

Even though the play from the quarterback was a train wreck, the effort from Robinsons stands out. He sacrifices and twists his body in an attempt to make a miraculous catch, but to no avail. Still, this should grab the attention of WR-needy teams, as they’ll love the determination Robinson shows here.

While his third season came completely out of his control, Robinson still showcased an abundance of quality.

Allen Robinson is from Detroit. This has nothing to do with the GIF, but it is a fact.

Robinson has the strong hands to box out defenders and snag under thrown balls, but he also the toughness needed to excel in tight coverage. You can’t tell from the replay angle, but the throw from Bortles on this play is late (RE: Long throwing motion). This should be thrown in the blink of an eye, yet Bortles is the anti Tom Brady or Marcus Mariota, and is not quick at cycling through his reads.

Because Bortles is late, the corner is in great position to either intercept the ball or disrupt it. Fortunately, Robinson is no stranger to contested passes. He knows the throw from Bortles is late, and uses his quick hands and toughness to tightly snug the ball away from the corner. With Mariota, Robinson wouldn’t need to be asked to catch passes on late decisions, but it’s a great skill to have nonetheless.

The Titans should heavily pursue Allen Robinson. If at full health, his ball skills rank among the absolute best, and his route running, margin for error, and tenacity make him not just the complete package as a vertical receiver, but as a red zone receiver. That’s what Tennessee desperately needs.

If the Jaguars let Robinson walk, they’re making a massive mistake. The success they had in 2017—A limited offense asked to be complimentary to a loaded defense—is not sustainable unless the proven talent is there. Robinson missed almost the entirety of the 2017 season, and though quality guys like Marqise Lee and Keelan Cole will be around, Robinson is a game changer at wide receiver, and would be a devastating loss.

Not that Titans fans would mind.