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Can Laurent Robinson Be Good?

I've become incredibly jaded about our receiving corps. I'm not ashamed to admit that each receiver we draft now causes me to start looking at what's wrong right away. When the team picked up Laurent Robinson in the third round, I called them a bunch of morons. The last thing we needed, I reasoned, was another quick receiver with suspect hands and long hair (see White, Roddy). I thought there were better receivers available there, and I certainly thought the team should've looked at Michael Bush, an enormous hammer of a running back who I reasoned could eventually take on the T.J. Duckett Memorial role. In short, I dismissed his chances of doing anything this year before he had even stepped on the field, something that I hate hearing other people do.

If this is what happens when I dismiss players, then Joey Harrington is due for a monster season.

Laurent Robinson has done nothing but impress so far in practice and in game situations. He's reasonably tall, he's faster than I expected him to be, and by the power of Greyskull, he can catch! This from a guy whose monster season in 2005 (86 catches, 1465 yards, 12 TDs) dwarfed all of his stats from last year (40 catches, 718 yards, 7 TDs). He was inconsistent at times last year playing for Division I-AA Illinois State, so I was leery of his possible production in the NFL. Clearly, I'm an idiot, because not only is he going to make the roster, but he has a chance to contribute his freshman season. It begs the question of whether we're seeing some preseason jibba jabba or L-Rob is the real deal.

Since my irresponsible predictions always work out for the best if you don't bother to go back into the archives and look at all the times they haven't, let's take another crack at one. Laurent Robinson is already the second best route runner on the team. Even if he forgets how to catch tomorrow, he actually grasps the concept of running in a set pattern, something Roddy White and Mike Jenkins seem be allergic too. He probably has the third best set of hands, because I'm still wary about White's preseason so far and I think Jenkins is improving. He's also right up with Roddy White in the speed and athleticism department. If you add all that together, you get a package that suggests that Laurent Robinson might very well be the team's second best receiver behind an aging Joe Horn. The problem is that that's solely based on tools, and receivers typically don't do jacksquat their first year in the league. It seems like Petrino knows that and isn't putting a lot of pressure on Robinson to perform right away.

Nonetheless, I think if he puts up two more 4-5 catch, 50 yard performances and shows some consistency, he should definitely be in the running for one of the top three spots on the depth chart. Horn's clearly number 1 and Roddy White is making a strong (and God forbid flukey) push for the second receiver job, so that leaves Jenkins versus Robinson in the slot. My preference is that Jenkins wins that job based on his size, red zone performance last year (7 TDs) and experience, but the coaching staff appears to be souring on him and Robinson is like a stadium on fire out there. This year, he may get in the game enough to pile up 20-30 catches, but I wouldn't expect a huge contribution.

In the future, however, I'm wearing three pairs of rose colored glasses stacked on top of each other. I think Laurent Robinson has the tools and the potential to be a starting receiver for the Falcons, and he comes without the expectations baggage that Jenkins and White have been carrying around. If that happens, I'll be the first to admit I was totally wrong about him. If he manages to be a really good starting receiver in this league, then suddenly this team's receiving woes could start fading into the background. I don't think I have to tell you how welcome that would be.

And Joey Harrington, you totally suck. Prove me wrong.