ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins receiver Aldrick Robinson has caught eight passes for 166 yards the past two games -- after going two games without a catch. He only has 14 receptions this season, but a strong finish could at least make him more intriguing in 2014. Will that happen? Redskins receivers coach Mike McDaniel is high on Robinson's possibilities.
1. Sometimes the best perspective on players comes from their position coaches. And Robinson's recent play is not a surprise to McDaniel. He said Robinson’s understanding of the timing of routes and how to run patterns at the proper speed has increased. Plus, he said, Robinson is smarter than most receivers, which is why they can put him at multiple spots, whether the X spot or Z. It’s also why others are limited to one spot.
“It’s difficult for NFL receivers to own an entire game plan and he’s able to master all the nuances and splits and alignments and route depths and route techniques,” McDaniel said. “A lot of times for guys with his speed it’s tough to manage their speed, to understand when to use all of it and when not to. He’s able to run really fast and stop on a dime and he’s also been able to incorporate different things to set up a defensive back. What you’re seeing is a guy coming into his own and you will continue to see more and more from him in the near future.”
2. McDaniel said Robinson’s routes have improved. Earlier this year there was a disconnect with Robinson and quarterback Robert Griffin III on shorter routes. Sometimes Robinson would get to his landmark before Griffin could throw the ball. But the past couple games, he's been more in sync on shorter routes. Robinson caught some of those last week against Atlanta, specifically an 11-yard catch on third and six. The trick is knowing how to use your speed.
“You have to use that speed to get the defender off you,” McDaniel said, “so him being able to do that and to stay under control and break down at the proper depth and then to run through the ball is an example of how he’s developed his route tree.”
3. McDaniel saw Robinson’s game start to grow in the Nov. 17 loss at Philadelphia. Robinson had a couple drops and assignment busts, but rallied to make a 19-yard grab and then a 50-yard reception for a touchdown. It showed McDaniel that Robinson could make mistakes in the game, yet recover to make big plays.
4. Robinson’s ability to beat man coverage has improved, McDaniel said. That’s true in part because he’s better at understanding how to beat this coverage. It starts with knowing how to read the defense. Robinson must know, for example, why the defender is four yards off and a yard outside of him. Clearly in that case, the defensive back is trying to keep him inside. The next step is knowing how to still run your route in that scenario.
“Once you understand how you can attack him the right way, you can get vertical without people re-routing you,” McDaniel said.
5. Versatility helps and if Robinson continues to catch underneath passes, it will prevent defenses from knowing what he’ll do when he enters the game. He caught that 62-yard pass in part because Atlanta’s safety hesitated on the play-action, but did not automatically play Robinson for a deep ball.
“We’ve always had guys that have been able to run real fast and go over the top of the coverage,” McDaniel said. “Look at Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks. But what’s unique about Robinson is his ownership of the rest of the route tree. You add that combination and now he’s on the field and he’s not just a deep threat he’s doing other things. It’s been awesome. The exciting part of it is I think we’ll all see a lot more to come. He’s nowhere near plateauing.”