Next to quarterback, no other position on offense has flummoxed the Chicago Bears more than wide receiver.
“[Chicago] is where receivers go to die,” former Bear Muhsin Muhammad famously uttered 10 years ago.
The Bears tried to change the narrative in recent years with additions such as Brandon Marshall (2012-14) and Alshon Jeffery (2012-16), but a quick glance at Chicago’s media guide reveals that Johnny Morris, who retired in 1967, still holds the franchise record for receiving yards (5,059) and catches by a wide receiver (356).
Jeffery, who played just five seasons for the Bears, is third all time in receiving yards (4,549) and fourth in career receptions (304) among Chicago wide receivers.
Sensing their obvious weakness, the Bears pursued multiple free-agent wideouts last week, eventually locking up 24-year-old Allen Robinson with a three-year deal that included $25.2 million in guarantees.
Robinson wisely signed a shorter contract, which enables him to potentially test free agency again at only 27 years old. But the former Jacksonville Jaguars standout said last week that he envisions Chicago as his final NFL destination.
“I know the kind of player I want to be in this league when it’s all said and done,” Robinson told reporters at Halas Hall. “So I think for me, looking at what Chicago provided from an overall standpoint was that I think they will allow me to do that. This is not something where I just want to come here -- I know I signed for three years -- but this is not just a three-year thing for me. I mean, in my eyes, I want to retire a Chicago Bear. So for me, there’s a lot riding on that.”
The Bears also have plenty riding on Robinson, who’s slated to be quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's primary target. Trubisky endured an uneven rookie season, partly because Chicago lacked adequate weapons at receiver.
Robinson, who missed almost all of last season with an ACL injury but caught 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Jags in his standout 2015 season, arrives in town with the reputation of being a quarterback-friendly wideout because of his route-running ability.
“I know from my standpoint, I'll be able to make his [Trubisky’s] job easy,” Robinson said. “That's my goal. Again, that's what I came here for. I came here to make those plays, to make those catches, to make his job easy."
Added Robinson: “I would date [my knowledge of route-running] back to college. College, I was fortunate to play for a coach that came from the NFL [Bill O'Brien] who had coached receivers in the NFL. And he was an offensive coordinator, so he was an offensive-minded guy who wanted to help me elevate my game to that. So, I mean, he kind of set for me the standards in what I would need to do to be successful in this league. And I know route-running is a big part of it. I know for me, I'm 24 years old right now, reaching the peak of my athleticism, but that's not something that I want to just rely on the rest of my career. I also want to be athletic, but I want to be polished and a technician as well.”