Dominique Robinson knows his rookie season with the Chicago Bears didn’t live up to expectations, but the 2022 fifth-round pick is setting lofty goals for his sophomore outing after putting in the work during the 2023 offseason.
Robinson recently sat down for a wide-ranging interview with Jim Davis for The Good Athlete Podcast and critiqued his rookie season with the Bears in 2022. He also spoke about his personal expectations for Chicago’s upcoming season, declaring that he wants to achieve a “10-sack season” for the Bears during his fourth full year at the position.
“I have big goals for myself,” Robinson said via The Good Athlete Podcast. “I want to have a 10-sack season this year. I think I can do it, I’ve been working, I’ve been busting my butt this offseason, working out with different people, trying to learn the game. This is only my third year, technically, playing defensive end. This will be my third full season, I’ve only got a few seasons up under my belt. I know I’m athletic enough, I know I’m strong enough. Now it’s just getting out there and seeing what works.”
Dominique Robinson Has Only Played DE for 3 Years
As a rookie defensive end, Robinson played in every game and became a starter midway through the season after the Bears traded veteran Robert Quinn to Philadelphia, but he went sackless in his final 16 performances after notching 1.5 sacks in the season opener. He was also one of the primary members of the Bears’ abysmal pass-rushing unit, which finished with a league-low 20 sacks during the 2022 season.
“It was a trial-and-error thing,” Robinson told Davis. “I started off the season great. I had a sack-and-a-half [and] that’s where I ended. I had a sack-and-a-half in that first game against San Fran, and I did things throughout the season, but I didn’t get any more sacks. And I think what I’ve come to realize it was God showing me that, ‘You have the talent to do this, but you’re not there.'”
Part of the reason behind Robinson’s ineffectiveness was the unit as a whole. Quinn hadn’t been terribly effective before getting traded and the veteran pieces that played big roles elsewhere, such as Trevis Gipson and Justin Jones, weren’t much better. A bigger part of Robinson’s struggle, though, was that 2022 was only his third season actually playing the defensive end position, making for one helluva learning curve.
Robinson only started playing defensive end in 2020 during his second-to-last season at Miami (Ohio), converting from wide receiver after sliding down the RedHawk’s depth chart. He recorded two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in three games in 2020, then upped his production to four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in his final season in 2021. While he made progress, it was hardly enough for anyone to expect him to be able to jump right into an NFL starting lineup and produce at a high level.
Robinson also admitted he struggled to ask for help from the Bears’ coaching staff and only started asking the right questions after the team’s Week 15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a game in which he said left tackle Jordan Mailata gave him a lot of trouble. After that, Robinson talked to his position coaches — Travis Smith and Justin Hinds — and said he felt like things started to click better for him in their final three games.
“I know I understand the game a little better now, but still you have to go out and execute,” Robinson said. “I’ve put in the work over this offseason and now the season is starting to roll back around, so it’s time to put it out there, put it on tape and execute.”
Will Dominique Robinson Start for Bears in 2023?
Robinson seems to be taking the right mindset into his second season in the NFL, but earning a starting role in the Bears’ lineup won’t be as easy as it was as a rookie.
Unlike when Quinn was traded and Robinson was the natural next-man-up for the edge role opposite Gipson, he is now contending with a group that has added veterans DeMarcus Walker and Rasheem Green to the mix in free agency. Walker is coming off a breakout seven-sack season for Tennessee in 2022, while Green — a five-year veteran who is only 14 months older than Walker — has notched 10 sacks and 23 quarterback hits over his past two seasons with Seattle (2021) and Houston (2022). That’s at least stiffer competition than Al-Quadin Muhammad and some practice-squad floaters.
The Bears are also expected to invest a little further in their edge rusher positions after using none of their 10 selections in the 2023 draft on securing a new defensive end. With roughly $30 million in cap space still, they could sign one of the bigger veteran names still on the market, such as Yannick Ngakoue, Leonard Floyd or Frank Clark. They could also explore the trade market, where Chase Young could potentially be a target after the Washington Commanders declined to pick up his option for 2024.
If even one more quality defensive end is added to the roster, Robinson could be shoved back into a rotational role for the 2023 season; although, there is nothing wrong with having a highly motivated, determined-to-improve piece like him waiting in the wings.