Has necessity forced LA Rams to throw to Allen Robinson?

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

In terms of the LA Rams and the addition of wide receiver Allen Robinson, there is little left to the buoyant optimism that accompanied the moment when the team announced signing him to the Rams roster. Robinson was a throwback, scrappy 6-foot-2 210-pound wide receiver whose ability to wrestle the football from the hands of defensive backs made him a solid option to enhance the Rams’ passing game.

But this was a Rams passing game that was already entrenched in the hierarchy. The Rams’ offense intended to target WR Cooper Kupp first, TE Tyler Higbee second, WR Ben Skowronek third, and somewhere in a distant fourth, the offensive game plan allowed for the Rams’ offense to target someone else.

It hasn’t been easy for Allen Robinson to maintain a brave face and toe the line of a player who is content to get whatever opportunities come his way. So far, Robinson has been targeted 29 times in six games, an average of just under six targets per game. Over the 17-game season, that equates to 100 targets in a year’s time.

Will Robinson get more looks in Week 8?

But that may be changing. Against a pretty good Carolina Panthers’ defense, Robinson caught five of six passes for 63 yards and a touchdown, his second touchdown of the season for the Rams. And just for the record, Cooper Kupp has four touchdowns on 72 targets. Allen Robinson has scored twice on just 29 targets.

I think it makes sense to throw to Robinson more often in Week 8. Robinson and LA Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is finding the range now, a small detail that seems to have taken quite some time to achieve. With that little change, the ability of the Rams to expand their passing game to include Robinson as a more consistent target should be the next step.

But what of that separation? What of the claims that Allen Robinson is not getting open? I don’t believe it. In the game reviews that I have gone over, Robinson is beating his coverage as consistently as other receivers. In fact, the San Francisco 49ers game is an ideal case study.

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Can Kupp win games like this?

In Week 4 against the 49ers, their secondary blanketed WR Cooper Kupp with high-low coverage nearly the entire game. Yes, Kupp caught 14 of 19 passes thrown his way, but with two defensive backs shadowing his every move, the 49ers conceded those completions knowing that they would have a strong say in the yards after the catch in that one. In that game, the 49ers limited Cooper Kupp to an average of just 3.9 yards from scrimmage before making the catch, and just 4.8 yards after the catch per reception.

Of 14 catches, Kupp managed just 55 yards before the catch and just 67 yards after the catch. The 49ers’ secondary baited the Rams’ offense and the Rams fell for it. Kupp caught 14 of 19 passes and made nine first downs. But with no commitment to running with the football, the 49ers could let the Rams connect with Kupp because they had the coverage to corral him whenever he touched the football. Kupp averages catching the ball 5.2 yards from scrimmage this year.

The 49ers lowered that to just 3.9 yards.

Robinson’s routes are much deeper

Using that same yards-before-completion statistic, Rams WR Allen Robinson is averaging 7.4 yards before completion this year. As you might expect from a receiver who wins contested catches, his yards-after-completion average is just 2.6 yards. But against the 49ers, Robinson was typically 13.5 yards downfield when targetted.  Kupp, in stark contrast, was just 4.7 yards downfield when targetted.

With the return of WR Van Jefferson, the 49ers’ defense will have plenty to concern them now. Not only will defensive backs be blanketing Kupp and TE Tyler Higbee, but they will need to have at least one deep defensive back to ensure that Jefferson does not blow past them.

But Jefferson’s deep threat will open up the field for the deep-routed Robinson as well. That could spell trouble for a 49ers defense that does a great job with limited receiver threats. But as was proven in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs, they can be beaten if those defensive backs are forced to cover individuals. Of 34 passes thrown by Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, no receiver was targetted more than eight times.

Compare that to the 48 passes thrown by Rams Stafford. 19 passes targetted Cooper Kupp. Another 14 passes targetted Tyler Higbee. 15 passes were thrown to five other receivers.

Allen Robinson has accounted for two of the Rams’ six passing touchdowns so far this season. Truthfully, he could score a great deal more often if Stafford finds the range.  And I think that in the Panthers’ game, Stafford found it.

Stay tuned. Allen Robinson could have a good game this week.

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