Mosher: New Chicago Bears WRs Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller are taking over
All of a sudden, the Bears are an offensive juggernaut. They have averaged 34.3 points over their past six games, winning six of their previous eight contests overall. They have managed to score by using a variety of different tactics and weapons on offense. One week it’s the rushing attack with Jordan Howard and Mitchell Trubisky. Another week it’s Tarik Cohen and Trey Burton doing damage in the short passing game. This week, it was wide receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller who were tasked to do the heavy lifting for the Bears — and they sure didn’t disappoint.
In Sunday’s win over the Lions, Robinson and Miller combined to catch 11 passes on 14 targets for 255 yards and three touchdowns. They were able to have their way with the Lions’ secondary as they were consistently open all game long. Take a look at their receiving charts against Detroit, courtesy of the NFL’s Next Gen Stats:
Today, we are going to take a look at how Robinson and Miller were able to take over Sunday’s contest and show how each player’s skill set fits into the offense. Let us begin by looking at the team’s No.1 receiver in Allen Robinson.
This was Robinson’s best game in a Bears’ uniform, and one of the best games of his career. It was the first time he went over 100 yards receiving with the Bears, and it was his first multi-TD game since Sept. 25, 2016. It was just the third game in Robinson’s career in which he had 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
So, how did Robinson have so much success this week against Detroit? It was mainly his ability to win off of the line of scrimmage. Robinson has never been the quickest of receivers in the NFL, but it is his size and route running that allows him to be such a dominant weapon, especially in the short to intermediate parts of the field.
Robinson’s first touchdown of the game came after a beautiful release from the line of scrimmage. He gave a little hesitation move as if he were going to run a slant, jabbed with his left foot hard to the inside and then took off down the sideline. Those couple of steps set up the entire play for Robinson. It was all he needed to create instant separation.
The ball was slightly underthrown despite Robinson gaining distance from the cornerback. However, it was no problem for Robinson, who tracks the ball so well in the air. Robinson adjusted to the pass for the easy score. It took a little more effort, but the result was a fairly routine catch by the Bears’ top receiver.
This play alone could be the focus of today’s piece, as it was one of the better routes I witnessed all weekend. However, Robinson wasn’t done. Later in the game, Robinson scored another touchdown from the right side from a similar distance. This time, he used the inverse of the previous route. Robinson jabbed hard to the outside and then broke open inside for the easy score. He is so nuanced at setting up defenders to get clean releases. It has been a long time since the Bears have had a player with this type of ability in their offense.
One of the things the Bears have done recently this season is use Robinson out of the slot. Though he is not overly quick, his route running does allow him to create separation — a must from a slot receiver. Playing Robinson in the slot gives quarterback Mitchell Trubisky another big option in the middle of the field, where the quarterback typically has less margin for error.
And the big-bodied Robinson works well out of the slot in part because he isn’t afraid to absorb contact. Combined with his athleticism and jumping ability, that fearlessnes makes him hard to defend in the deep middle of the field. On the play below, Robinson won again off the line of scrimmage and caught a beautiful pass by Trubisky. Notice how Robinson secures the catch despite taking a hit from the safety. This is just another way the Bears can use their No.1 receiver to his fullest abilities.
The hope for the Bears in the long term is that Allen Robinson can continue to be the team’s WR1 in Chicago and Anthony Miller can develop into a high-end No.2 receiver. Picture the combination of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders when each was at their peaks. That’s the type of combination the Bears are hoping for. Those two players worked well in tandem because their skill sets were fit together. That’s also true of Robinson and Miller. They each do different things well and can both play multiple positions — another must in today’s NFL.
Over the past several weeks, Miller’s role has evolved, and it’s no coincidence that the offense has started to take off. On Sunday, Miller had a career day, catching five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. His long score came on a broken coverage that resulted in him being wide open down the field. Give credit to Miller for the crisp route and ability to break a tackle and score despite the suspect coverage.
Miller is at his best when he can use his quickness to create separation in the middle of the field. On this reception, Miller set up the defensive back with multiple moves before bursting open in over the middle for the easy grab. This play only gained 15 yards and was one of the shorter receptions on the day for Miller, but these are the types of routes that he can run so well.
If Miller can consistently win in the middle of the field like this, the Bears’ offense has no ceiling. Miller’s game is built on quickness and being able to get in and out of his breaks. Though Taylor Gabriel has played well this season, and others have contributed, the quickest way for this offense to take the next step is for Miller to become the team’s No.2 receiver. Is he ready to assume that role? It appears he is certainly getting closer each week. I’ll guess that by the 2019 season, Miller will be fully locked into that role.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the Bears’ offense is performing at a high level right now. On the season, the Bears are averaging 30 points per game, the fifth-most in the NFL. However, there is still plenty of room for growth for everyone involved. It was a group that was essentially thrown together in one offseason, yet already is functioning like a unit that has played together for a decade. If Robinson and Miller can continue to dominate inside and outside, that should open the middle of the field for Trey Burton and the rushing attack and vice versa.
This Bears’ offense is loaded with talent, and teams across the NFL are struggling to match their weapons. However, Chicago should be in for a big test next Sunday night when the division rival Minnesota Vikings come to Soldier Field in primetime. For the Bears to win that matchup, they are going to need Robinson and Miller to be stars once again. Luckily for Chicago, we know that they have the talent and the ability to do so. At this stage of the season, I’m expecting both players to show out on “Sunday Night Football.”