Late last season it looked like Aldrick Robinson had a chance to emerge as the Redskins No. 2 receiver, an outside speed complement to Pierre Garçon. Asked in 2013 if he could be the No. 2 option for Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, Robinson joked he could become the No. 1 option.
It's not uncommon for a receiver to break out in his third season in the NFL, and the 2014 season marks Robinson's third year in the pros. Combined with a strong finish to the 2013 season -- 12 catches over the final four games -- there was reason for optimism for Robinson. Then free agency opened, and the Redskins moved quickly to add WR Andre Roberts from the Arizona Cardinals.
A few weeks later, Philadelphia cut DeSean Jackson, and the 'Skins again moved quickly to bolster their receiving group. Robinson went from a chance at the No. 2 spot on the depth chart to perhaps fighting for a roster spot.
Right now, Robinson can't rank higher than fourth on the Redskins WR depth chart, certainly behind Garçon, Jackson and Roberts. Rookie Ryan Grant has impressed the coaching staff, and veteran Santana Moss commands respect for his career with Washington.
So against that backdrop, Robinson found himself starting Thursday night against New England with Jackson and Garçon sidelined with injuries. And he took advantage of it, hauling in three catches for 45 yards with a touchdown.
"When the starters are out, the coaches want to see if the game flow remains the same," Robinson said. "They want to see depth, and that’s what I think we showed them tonight."
Redskins coach Jay Gruden made a point of mentioning Robinson after the after the 23-6 win over the Patriots.
"Aldrick Robinson, he just continues to make play after play after play," Gruden said.
The third-year man out of Southern Methodist could have caught the first touchdown of the game on a pass from Robert Griffin III, but got tangled up with the defender and fell with his arm out of bounds. The TD he brought in, on a laser from Kirk Cousins, was a great route and catch. Robinson was glad he recorded a touchdown, otherwise he might have gotten an earful about the first failed play in the end zone.
"I was going to catch some heat, but I bailed myself out," Robinson said.
A play similar to the touchdown route got the Redskins out of trouble in the second quarter when they were backed up against their own goal-line. Robinson ran an inside route, Cousins hit him in stride, and Robinson found daylight after the catch. His speed makes him a tremendous asset for yards-after-the-catch, and when defenders have to guard against Robinson on deep patterns, more underneath and intermediate opportunities should open up.
"It was nice to see that our hard work paid off tonight," Robinson said.
The NFL is a business, and players are reminded of that year round. When Robinson saw the Redskins front office bring in Jackson and Roberts in the offseason, he said he did not take the moves as a slight to his ability. Rather, Robinson said, he knew he would have to work harder to step his game up.
"Being the guy that I am, I'm always at the bottom of the list, but I've always got to fight my way up. That’s what Im going to try to continue to do."