Mocking came from players on both sides of the ball when wide receiver Aldrick Robinson was horseshoed in by a crowd of media in the Redskins’ over-populated lockerroom Thursday night.
Robinson’s teammates patronized him for being a media star. Robinson would settle for being a member of the 53-man roster when camp concludes.
Offseason signings by the Redskins sent a clear message to Robinson that he was not doing enough. After being drafted in the sixth round in 2012, Robinson received playing time early before his snap count dwindled. Last season was the reverse. By the end of the year, Robinson was often on the field.
Then Andre Roberts signed in March and DeSean Jackson became a surprise addition in April. Jackson’s signing, in particular, seemed a nudge out the door for Robinson. Each are known as over-the-top speed threats, but Jackson’s deep-ball legacy is more regal. It’s also much more expensive. Robinson is on a one-year, $570,000 deal. Jackson signed a four-year, $32 million contract.
That leaves Robinson adapting as he works to latch on to the Redskins’ receivers group for the third season. Between Pierre Garcon, Jackson, Roberts, veteran Santana Moss and rookie Ryan Grant, five of likely six wide receiver spots are occupied. Robinson — a sixth-round pick out of SMU in 2011 — feels like this is rinse and repeat.
“As soon as they signed guys, I knew I had to step my game up even more,” Robinson said. “Being the guy I am, I’m always at the bottom of the list. I always got to play my way up and that’s what I’m going to try to continue to do.”
He had a good start in the Redskins’ 23-6 preseason opening win against the New England Patriots on Thursday night. Robinson caught three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. He almost had a second touchdown, but he stuck his hand down to brace his fall when his legs became entangled with a defensive back. His hand pressed into the sideline of the end zone before his second foot landed inbounds, negating the score.
Robinson, 25, can at least look at Thursday as an opportunity taken. Jackson (ankle) and Garcon (hamstring) sat out. Without those two starters, Grant and Robinson became the most targeted Redskins receivers.
“Every time I get on the field it’s important,” Robinson said. “It’s a tough competition. It’s stiff. I know every time I get out there I have to take advantage of every opportunity I get.”
Robinson is battling preconception along with teammates. The view of Robinson is simple and one-dimensional, much in the way the critique of him is. He has plenty of speed to run deep routes. The end.
Having a new coach in Jay Gruden helps him try to derail prior thought. Wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard is back with Robinson. They worked together in 2012, Hilliard’s first stint with the Redskins. Robinson said another player could find it hard to break from a label. Not so for him.
“It depends on where your mindset is,” Robinson said. “With me, not at all. My mindset is I’m a good receiver. I can be a good receiver in this league. I can be an all-around receiver. I’ll always have that mindset and I’m going to continue to push toward it.
“You want to be know as an all-around player. You don’t want to be a one-trick pony in this league.”
Thursday, he tried to display better route running. His reliability as a pass-catcher has fluctuated his first two seasons, taking his playing time with it. That’s another issue that needs a fix.
Thursday’s near-touchdown and actual score were two examples of what Moss sees as a remedy for Robinson’s reputation and roster situation.
“Just make plays,” Moss, in his 14th season, said. “Make plays and you have the chance to be on any team.”
Then his teammates can tease him all they want.