The Redskins signed Aldrick Robinson to a one-year contract sometime last week. There was no doubt that Robinson would be back. Although he technically was a free agent since his contract expired he has only two accrued years of NFL service. That meant he was an exclusive-rights free agent and his options were to stay with the Redskins or find something else to do for a living. With the contract coming in at $570,000, the minimum for a player with two years in league, Robinson made the wise choice and signed with the Redskins.
In order to collect on that contract Robinson has to make the team and that is not a given. Any player who was drafted by the previous regime and has just 29 receptions in 31 games played will have to fight off challengers to get a roster spot.
It’s a no-risk proposition for Jay Gruden and the Redskins. There is no guaranteed money in the deal and if they decide he isn’t what they are looking for they can release him.
He will get a look for a roster spot for the same reason he was drafted, his speed. He ran a 4.35 in the 40 at the combine and the Redskins took him based on the old adage that they could teach him how to improve his route running and ball catching but they can’t teach him how to run that 4.35.
In three years with the Redskins (he spent all but one game of his rookie season on the practice squad) his progress in moving from “wow, he’s fast” to “hey, he’s a quality NFL receiver” has been spotty.
For most of the 2012 and 2013 seasons Robinson didn’t get much of an opportunity to play. In 2012 he played 96 snaps the first two games and after that he got more than 15 snaps in a game just once. It looked like he was going to take off after catching touchdown bombs of 49 yards against the Eagles and 68 yards in Dallas to help start a season-ending seven-game winning streak. But Robinson played a total of 21 snaps in the last five games and was not targeted once.
He continued to play sparingly in 2013 until Leonard Hankerson suffered a knee injury in Week 11 in Philadelphia. He started to take advantage of his opportunity. He caught 11 passes for 213 yards (19.4 yards per catch) in the last four games of the season. One encouraging aspect of his performance was that eight of those receptions were good for between 10 and 20 yards. That means that he was making catches on intermediate routes and getting some yards after the catch (44 per Pro Football Focus) and he wasn’t just going deep.
Can Robinson duplicate what he did in the latter part of 2013 for the entire 2014 season? We will find out. If he makes the team—and challengers for his roster spot could be brought in via free agency and the draft—he will benefit from Jay Gruden’s tendency to rotate his receivers. Robinson should get his chance and we’ll see if he can convert from fast guy to fast NFL receiver.
As the discussion rages around what the Redskins should do with free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, $75 million cornerback Josh Norman made clear he wants the passer back. Norman explained that the 'Skins struggles should not be pinned to Cousins, but rather, a Washington defense that finished the year near the bottom of the NFL.
"We got to help him out of defense, and stop somebody on the field," Norman said on FS1 (click here for full video). "We did not help him out at all. I'll be honest with you. We got to do our job."
Norman's comments came during a spirited argument with Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock and Cris Carter in what amounted to a festival of hot takery. Whitlock's argument was that Cousins is not a franchise quarterback, and shoult not be paid as such, largely for losing the final two home games of the year against Carolina and the New York Giants.
Cousins passed for nearly 5,000 yards this year, a statitstic Norman pointed to in his defense of the QB. He also explained that Cousins still has room to grow.
"He only had two seasons," Norman said. "Cam Newton had five seasons."
Drafted in 2012, Cousins was just named the 'Skins starter in 2015. He's started every game the last two seasons and gone 17-16 while passing for more than 9,000 yards. Norman played with Newton in Carolina before signing with Washington last year, and got to watch the quarterback develop into the league MVP in 2015.
Norman described Cousins as a 'great guy' and leader in the locker room, but he allowed that, "I know a great guy don’t translate into wins. I'm not saying that."
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As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.
No. 9 worst play of 2016
Steelers at Redskins Week 1
10:18 left in Q2, Steelers ball 4th and 1 at the Redskins 29, Redskins leading 6-0
Ben Roethlisberger pass deep left to Antonio Brown for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
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Tandler: Things were looking up for the Redskins prior to this, even though they were unable to punch the ball into the end zone in two forays deep into Steelers territory and had to settle for field goals (a taste of things to come all year). The Steelers drove down the field and went for it on fourth and one. Because Joe Barry opted not to have Josh Norman travel from side to side with Brown, it was Bashaud Breeland with one-on-one coverage on the right side. Brown beat Breeland and DeAngelo Hall was late giving safety help and Big Ben put the ball on the money. The score put the Steelers ahead to stay.
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Finlay: It's easy to forget now that the Redskins had an early lead in the opener against Pittsburgh. In fact, their defense started well, until this point. In something that would be repeated throughout the year, the Steelers did not hesitate to go for it on 4th down against the Washington defense. Breeland was in pretty good position on the ball, though Roethlisberger's throw was right on the money. It would be only one more week until Josh Norman would then start traveling to cover other team's best receivers. Beyond the immediate impact of this play, it also seemed to stay with Breeland as he struggled somewhat in the first half of the season.
10 best plays countdown
10 worst plays countdown
RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0
Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!