Can Robinson Return to Form?

If there is one ultimate wildcard player on the Ravens' roster, it is Marcus Robinson, the former Chicago Bears standout. With all of the other free-agent acquisitions that the team has made, you know what you are getting.

Frank Sanders is reliable possession receiver. At worst, he will run crisp routes and catch any pass thrown in his direction. Although Orlando "Zeus" Brown hasn't played football for three seasons, you expect him to be a physical run blocker on the right side of the line.


In Corey Fuller's case, even if he makes a position switch from cornerback to safety, there is some optimism that he can make the conversion work, because he has solid instincts, savvy and although his speed at the corner position is slipping, he should have very good speed at the safety position to cover his side of the field. If he flames out as a safety, the Ravens can use Fuller as their main dime cornerback.


With Robinson, though, it's hard to gauge what kind of role he will have with the team. He can easily claim the No.1 position away from Travis Taylor, or stay in his current role as the third receiver who would play either the X or Z position when the Ravens use three wide sets. Or Robinson could simply be a non factor altogether.


One thing is for sure, given his raw physical skills, Robinson is someone who can still dominate in the NFL.


There just aren't many wideouts who are 6'3, 215-pounds and can run the 40 in 4.4 seconds. He has the strength to beat press coverage and the leaping ability to fight for jump balls. As a deep threat, Robinson has the instincts to make big catches, whether the ball is thrown five yards in front of him or it is under thrown, and he must break off his route and come back for the pass.


By the same token, the former South Carolina star's career may curtail due to the injuries he has suffered. Robinson was forced out of the lineup in 2000 due to suffering back problems, and in 2001, Robinson blew out his ACL and MCL after playing in just four games.

In 2002, Robinson returned to the team and tried to crack the Bears' rotation, but could not beat out receivers Marty Booker, David Terrell and Dez White, who all logged more playing time. People who covered the Bears last year say that Robinson lost his burst, acceleration and ability to make hard cuts whenever he had to run any intermediate routes.


Then again, whenever any player tries to come back to form after tearing ligaments in their knee, they usually don't break out after the first year of recuperation. Jamal Lewis and Joey Galloway (both tore their ACL) are two players who performed at a much higher level after the second years of their recovery process.


That is definitely one positive fact that the Ravens' front office is banking on. Also, Robinson was clearly fazed out of a job in Chicago not only due to the emergence of Marty Booker as a Pro Bowl wideout, but because the Bears were paying him over $3 million per season.


With the selection of David Terrell out of the first round in 2001, along with the contract extension that Booker received last year worth $4 million per season, Chicago simply could not afford to keep all three receivers, especially considering that Terrell is being counted on to blossom into a No.1 WR.


By releasing Robinson, the Bears saved nearly $2 million in cap space and got rid of a player that was discontent with his role on the team.


Actually, Robinson should thank the Bears for releasing him in April, not June as they had planned to do. By being dumped from the roster a week before the draft took place, Robinson was able to garner a great deal of attention from other teams, although the market was dry. Green Bay, Arizona, New England, Miami, San Francisco and Oakland all expressed interest in signing Robinson, although all of their offers were worth the minimum or slightly more.


Robinson ended up signing with Baltimore because he had family ties to the area and smartly concluded that besides Arizona (which is a bad football team, unless you did not know by now), there was no other team that would give him a better opening to regain a starting job.

For both sides, this is clearly a win-win signing. The former Pro Bowl alternate gets a chance to prove that he is still a very good receiver, and because he signed a one-year deal, he has the opportunity to earn a lucrative contract with either the Ravens or some other team on the open market in March.


The Ravens, who have not had a true No.1 option at the wideout position in years, have risked nothing by inking Robinson to a one-year deal that is worth $800,000 in salary. The deal is extremely cap friendly and if Robinson blows up this season, the Ravens will have the first chance to re-sign him at the end of the year.


Now, it's up to Robinson to redeem himself and prove that he can still play at a high level. No one is expecting him to reproduce the 1,400 yards that he gained four years ago. However, if he is close to being the playmaker he was in 1999, both the Ravens and Robinson will have a very good season.  

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