Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson isn't anywhere near an unknown in NFL circles. But he feels that way through the football media lens because Jacksonville exists largely off the national radar. As a player, these are the weeks getting up to speed in a hurry is a must. If your team hasn't played Jacksonville, you won't likely be familiar with their personnel unless you played some of the guys in college.
But your familiarity with a player or team has 0.0 to do with how well they can play. When they beat Miami a week ago, the sell for the Patriots coaching staff got that much easier. This is serious. And it's got nothing to do with any past season or team. Just this one. And those guys over there.
A week ago against the Dolphins, Robinson had 6 catches for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fantasy owners perked up. But as the Patriots return home today to face the Jags, the defensive gameplan they roll with will go along way towards determining the outcome of this game. As is so often the case in New England, they aim to take away the best thing you do. In the case of the Jags, it's vertical chunk plays off play-action.
Typically, NFL stats can lead you to believe something different than reality. Blake Bortles and the Jags provide a great example. Bortles sports a 54% completion percentage. That says "inefficient NFL passer" at first blush. But after studying the game film, you realize the passing efficiency number is low because the Jags have an obsession with pushing the ball down the field and taking shots - a philosophy in stark contrast to the Patriots'. Those are obviously lower-likelihood throws. It's like comparing a three-point shooter to a mid-range specialist...they're two very different things. The important thing to come away with in film study is where on field they'll take these shots, and look for any situational clues as to when they're coming. That's what smart film study in the NFL is all about.
Robinson leads the team in targets with 19. But out in the field he's not a big short & intermediate target for this team. With the return of Marquis Lee, a slick route-runner who played his first game this season a week ago, Robinson's likely role comes into much greater focus on tape.
The opening game of the NFL season for the Jags was against the Carolina Panthers. As good as Robinson was a week ago, he was held to one catch on seven targets in the opener. He struggled at times. This is his first target of the season, a deep 20-yard comeback route off of not only play-action, but boot play-action to Blake Bortles' right side (his arm side).
In the clip below, the ball beats up Robinson a bit on the incompletion. You can also see that the cornerback has no trouble staying on top of the route, an indication that Allen's 4.6 second combine speed that dropped him into the second round of the 2014 draft does translate to the field. He's not a burner and he's not the most sure-handed receiver you'll come across. But that doesn't mean he isn't still very dangerous.
After that deep comeback drop, Robinson isn't targeted on that look again. He's been used since on routes he excels at much more consistently: downfield throws that keep him moving downfield.
The example below illustrates another element that is consistently a part of how the Jags use Robinson: double-moves on verticals.
Robinson is 6'3" and doesn't get a ton of vertical separation. In fact, in most of his big plays in the last couple weeks, he's plucked the ball in pretty tight coverage. The double-move element helps get him a lil' more separation that his pure foot speed does not. His big body and high-level ability to make plays in traffic does the rest.
It's important to note that the route comes in "isolation" -- or where Robinson is extended from the formation by himself with the other three eligible WR stacked on the opposite side of the formation. Robinson in isolation vs 3x1 sets is a huge key that the Jags intention is to get him involved downfield.
The next example shows another way the Jags use double-moves, this time in three-step (quick) passing. The double-move hits at the depth you'd expect a three-step pass to hit based on the QB drop -- slant, hitch, in-cut, etc. But the route converts quickly into a tempo fade. Carolina played it well and forced an incompletion (below).
The most consistent theme in all this stuff is the Jags love to work the ball down the field on the outside using play action. There will be runs to TJ Yeldon, and also short passing game through crossers and screen game. And then at a point when the defense may be lulled to sleep, the Jags pounce. That's their M.O. The shot below is vintage Robinson. It's just a simple "go" route. There's little-to-no separation between himself and the defensive back. But he still makes a huge catch.
The approach the Patriots adopt Sunday against the Jags will be particularly interesting to watch. I don't think they'll be forced to go to two-deep safety looks as they probably wish they had a week ago against a pure-speed deep threat like the Bills' Sammy Watkins. This one is different. I'd expect more off-coverage to put defensive backs in the best position to stay on top of and compete on downfield balls where their back isn't turned to the play.
One final area of note where Robinson should set off alarms in the Patriots defense is the low red area. The Jags love him in isolation in this area of the field as well. The below example shows that ol' 3 x 1 quick fade to the short side.
A compliment to that fade play is when the Jags extend Robinson to create width between himself and the core of the formation...jab at the fade, and then run the quick slant for an easy score. The two-play sequence of quick fade in isolation or quick slant from extended is something Patriots fans should be very familiar with. That's the same way the Pats use Rob Gronkowski in the low red area.
There's no hype-train for Allen Robinson and the Jags, that's for sure. But there is high-end ability at the skill positions and a proven ability to outplay talented defenses. The key is to play with an awareness of exactly the way the Jags like to use their people.
Robinson gets an opportunity to show what he can do against one of the highest profile teams in the NFL. And the Patriots get to show that their level of respect for a team or player isn't contingent upon media interest.
Check out more articles like this by Matt Chatham on FootballbyFootball.com