JACKSONVILLE – For something that started so wrong, Allen Robinson's 2015 season hardly could have finished more right.
How good was Allen Robinson's 2015 season? How much did life change?
"Maybe a little – maybe I'm a little more noticeable," the Jaguars' second-year, Pro Bowl wide receiver said with a laugh this week. "You can credit that to fantasy football, maybe. That's what I always hear, that I'm helping people win their leagues."
That recognition was well-deserved. Robinson in 2015 had a season that pretty much defined "breakout," gaining national recognition and along with quarterback Blake Bortles and wide receiver Allen Hurns establishing himself as a core of a talented young offense.
Still, the season didn't start special. Not for him – or the Jaguars' receivers as a whole.
Hurns and Robinson entered the regular-season opener confident and motivated – motivated to silence critics who believed the Jaguars needed a veteran receiver and confident they would do so.
Instead, the receivers spent a 20-9 Week 1 loss to Carolina proving those critics right – temporarily, at least. Robinson dropped two passes. Hurns had a critical red-zone fumble. In all, Jaguars receivers dropped three or four passes.
"We were right back to where we had started as far as outside noise, media, the whole 'We don't have the receivers …''' Robinson said. "After that game, we really had to bond together. We had to lean on each other and tell each other, 'We know the players we can be … we know the plays we can make.' "
Fast forward seven days. Hurns caught four passes for 68 yards in an emotional 23-20 victory over Miami at EverBank Field; Robinson caught six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns – the breakout game that led to a breakout 80-reception, 1,400-yard, franchise-record 14-touchdown season.
Robinson last week became the first Jaguars receiver named to the Pro Bowl in 14 seasons and appears to be the No. 1, go-to-receiver the team hasn't had in a decade.
"Carolina helped us a ton," Robinson said. "Moving forward, I thought you saw a different receiving corps the rest of the year. Going through that first week … we never wanted to go through that again. We had that fire in our eyes the rest of the season."
Robinson earlier this week sat down with senior writer John Oehser at EverBank to talk about the season, what it meant to make the Pro Bowl and just where it is he goes from here:
Question: Have you had time to let the dust settle from the season?
Answer: A little bit. I haven't stopped yet. I'm still working out for the Pro Bowl, but I've thought about the Pro Bowl a little.
Q: A cool thing, no?
A: (Laughs). I'm excited. I'm looking forward to being out there with just a great group of players. You look at who's on the Pro Bowl list: it's a ton of future Hall of Famers. Being able to compete with those guys, pick their brains a little about football … it's pretty cool.
*Q: You're a confident guy who expected to do well in the NFL. Still, getting confirmation of that – which happened this season – has to be a big moment. *
A: For sure. For us – and speaking for the whole receiving corps – that's what we had our minds on this year when we were putting in the work in the offseason. We wanted to show people what we could do. Really, our whole offense was like that. We got a lot of scrutiny last year, and going into this season people were saying we didn't have the players to be a successful offense. People said we didn't have the talent around [quarterback] Blake [Bortles] and people were getting on Blake. At the end of the day, we knew where we were at last year. Not many receiving rooms have three rookies who are playing [Hurns, Robinson and Marqise Lee] – with a rookie quarterback as well. When all of you are trying to adjust to the NFL, you have a year where you take your lumps. But you all are doing it. We didn't have a great year last year , but it definitely helped us and put us in a position going into this year.
Q: What's next? Where do you want to be next year?
A: I want to become more efficient. I had a decent amount of long-ball targets [in 2015], but I definitely want to become more efficient. [Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver] Antonio Brown … when he played against Denver [in December] he had 16 catches on 18 targets. That's pretty efficient. [Atlanta Falcons] Julio Jones in some games will have nine catches on 11 targets, so I just want to work on that efficiency.
Q: You just mentioned two of the best wide receivers in the NFL right now. That's where you want to go …
A: For sure. I think that's the next step for us as a receiving corps. As a receiving corps, as an offense, I think we have the opportunity to take a really big step. Everybody has the capability and the talent to do that. If we continue to put in the same amount of work as we did last year – and even more now that we know the direction we're headed – we can really take that step as an offense.
Q: All the talk this time last year was the great class of wide receivers from the 2014 NFL Draft. You didn't get mentioned much in that group because you had been hurt as a rookie. Motivation?
A: For sure, for sure, for sure. With us having three rookies in that great receiving class, it still was always, 'We need another receiver, we need another receiver. We don't have enough talent.' I knew the pieces were there, and I don't think anybody here doubted us. I think that's what's so special. We knew [Jaguars General Manager] Dave [Caldwell] and [Head] Coach [Gus] Bradley and Coach Sully [wide receivers coach Jerry Sullivan] – we knew how those guys approached it. Seeing the confidence they had in us, as far as the receiving corps we had – that spoke volumes to us, that they had the confidence in what we had in our room to get it done. That pushed us through. It wasn't really about proving the doubters wrong. It was about proving the guys who believed in us right.
Q: You and Allen [Hurns] didn't talk much about it until after the season, but that really motivated you, didn't it?
A: That was a big thing. We really wanted to go out and prove we could play at this level, that we could compete at this level. Honestly, the whole offseason was a real slap in the face. I know Coach Bradley says for us not to be outside in, but hearing all that – it does create a chip on our shoulder as far as, 'We have the guys in our room to get the job done.' It was big each and every week.
Q: Talk about [wide receivers coach *Jerry] Sullivan. You and Hurns each play very professionally for players so you. How much of that is Jerry?*
A: His technique goes a big way for us. We do have athleticism – a lot of athleticism – in our room, but as far as being technicians and winning in a lot of situations … that's what he really does for us. He can create so many different scenarios and how to win in those situations. Once it comes down to it in a game, it's something we've already experienced and already have done. He describes it to us as a tool belt. You want as many tools as possible in that belt so when the situation comes up you're prepared for it.
A: Talking you today, it's obvious you believe you're just getting started …
A: I think I speak for all of the receivers when I say we're just as critical on ourselves as anybody. Once you break down the film you see a lot of things we could have done differently throughout the course of the season. We can make adjustments. There are so many things you want to work on and during the season, you don't have the amount of time to do that. We have time this offseason to work on specific things and try to take our game to another level again.