The Los Angeles Rams made a shocking move last offseason when they traded away Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans for a sixth-round pick. After signing Allen Robinson to a three-year, $46.5M contract, the Rams couldn’t afford both receivers. Wanting a more physical receiver in the red zone, Sean McVay and the Rams opted for Robinson.
Moving on from Woods wasn’t easy. He had become a staple of the Rams offense. Coming to Los Angeles from Buffalo in 2017 and returning to where he played college football was a sort of homecoming. Woods led the Rams in receiving in 2018 with over 1,200 yards. He had another 1,000 yard season in 2019.
After everything that Woods had done for the Rams, it made him going down last season with an ACL tear that much more difficult. It’s hard seeing any player suffer that sort of injury. When it’s a player like Woods, it’s heartbreaking.
Following the Super Bowl win and entering free agency, the Rams decided to go in a different direction. With Odell Beckham Jr., the Rams unlocked a different part of their offense with a more physical-styled receiver. Les Snead and Sean McVay signed Robinson on March 17. One week later, they traded Woods to the Titans.
Robinson was slightly younger and matched the physical-build that the Rams wanted. He added versatility to the position with his size and physicality that the Rams didn’t have previously. Robinson’s 71 contested catches since 2018 were the most of any receiver in the NFL during that span according to Pro Football Focus.
Throughout the offseason, Robinson looked to have a strong connection with Stafford. It appeared as if the former Chicago Bears wide receiver was fitting in seamlessly into the offense.
However, that has yet to come to fruition on Sundays. Robinson currently has been targeted just two more times than Ben Skowronek and has three fewer receptions. His 95 yards through four games also trails Skowronek’s 140.
To say this production is underwhelming from a player that the Rams are paying $46.5M would be an understatement. While there is some concern that Stafford is locking in on Kupp, that isn’t necessarily the case.
Multiple things can be true here.
Stafford is targeting Kupp a lot more. The triple-crown winner is currently accounting for 36.5 percent of the Rams targets. That’s almost five percent more than his target share of 31.7 percent last season.
However, this isn’t to say that Stafford has always been locked in on Kupp going back to last year. In 2021 through four games, Robert Woods had 16 receptions on 24 targets for 172 yards. This was before his big-game against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5. Even without Woods following Week 9 and the addition of Beckham Jr. in the middle of the season, Stafford targeted Kupp on just 30.1 percent of his throws.
Meanwhile, Robinson currently has nine receptions on 18 targets for 95 yards. It’s worth noting that six of those targets have come in the red zone - one of which was a dropped touchdown.
With that said, Robinson is also struggling to get open. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Robinson’s 2.2 average yards of separation is one of the worst in the league as it ranks 92nd out of 106 receivers. Next Gen stats considers an open target to be three yards of separation.
Comparitively, Skowronek is averaging four yards of separation, Tyler Higbee is averaging 3.6 yards separation, and Kupp is at 3.3 yards of separation. Robinson is averaging a full yard less of separation than any other qualifying Rams receiver.
Yes, Kupp, Higbee, and Skowronek play 40 percent or more of their snaps in the slot or in-line, making separation a lot easier. However, compare Robinson with Woods last year or even Odell Beckham Jr. and he’s still behind.
Last season, Beckham was getting an average of 2.6 yards of separation. He did this while playing 77.4 percent of his snaps out-wide. During the postseason, he was open on an impressive 61 percent of his targets which was up from 35 percent in Weeks 10-18.
Receivers who are targeted down the field, tend to struggle to get more separation than players who are targeted in the short or intermediate areas. This is why Terry McLaurin and Mike Evans only average 2.1 and 2.2 yards of separation respectively. Robinson’s average depth of target this season is 11.6 which leads Rams receivers. However, Beckham Jr.’s average depth of target is 2021 was 14 yards and he still got more separation and got open.
ESPN has recently created a new metric called “open score”. This is calculated on all routes — targeted or not — factoring in the route the receiver is running, coverage, leverage and defender positioning.
In 2021 and the first three weeks of 2022, Beckham has been considered the sixth-most open wide receiver with an open score of 86.
Looking at Woods here, while playing 58.6 percent of his snaps out-wide, he was averaging 3.6 yards of separation before his injury. If three yards of separation is considered open, Woods was open quite often.
Robinson has never been a receiver to create separation. In fact, his 2.2 yards of separation is one of the highest of his career. In 2020, he averaged 2.3 yards of separation which is his career-best.
Five Thirty Eight created a metric called separation over expectation following the 2019 season. The metric shows how good an NFL wide receiver is at creating separation. From 2017-19, Woods and Kupp were both among the top-15 wide receivers in creating separation in the intermediate areas of the field. Beckham Jr. was also in the top-15.
In the bottom-15 was Robinson, not once, but twice. His 2018 and 2019 season were the sixth and eighth worst measurements recorded.
On deep routes, Robinson was ranked second to last in 2019 ahead of only Robby Anderson in 2018. Again, among the top-15 were Beckham Jr., Woods, and even Brandin Cooks.
It’s hard to know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Despite a bit of a down-year, Woods has 13 receptions for 167 yards with the Titans. He’s bounced back from the ACL just fine.
One way or another the Rams need to figure out this Allen Robinson dilemma. It’s hard to justify paying $15M a year for a player that’s simply been a red zone threat up to this point.
Sean McVay said today on Allen Robinson's lack of targets that "a lot of it is out of his control."— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) October 5, 2022
Matthew Stafford said today, "He's a really talented player, a guy I can do a better job trying to find him and get the balls to him earlier ... whatever the coverage dictates is
According to Spotrac, the Rams are stuck with Robinson at least until the end of next year. The Rams would be responsible for $26M in dead cap next year if the traded him or cut him. Heading into 2024, that number drops to $8.4M.
Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and the Rams figure it out. Still, it’s worth asking these questions when the Rams traded a player in Woods who was proven to work in their scheme for a sixth-round pick. The player that they replaced him with is performing at the same level as a 2021 seventh-round pick.
The early-return on Robinson hasn’t been what many expected which further adds to the disappointment. McVay and the Rams need to figure out before Robinson becomes the team’s largest free agent bust in recent memory.