Remember when the Jets were supposed to be the worst team in 2017? How things have changed.
While the team isn’t competing for a playoff spot this season, the Jets have been a pleasant surprise, being competitive in each of their games played since the 0-2 start. Sitting at 4-7, they’re a team to watch out for to give competing teams on their schedule (four of their last five games come against the Chiefs, Chargers, Saints and Patriots) a hard time.
The offense, which was supposed to be a disaster, actually has some good pieces on. Bilal Powell, Matt Forte, Jermaine Kearse, Elijah McGuire, and Robby Anderson are a nice group to work with, and offensive coordinator John Morton has done an excellent job of running a quarterback friendly offense for Josh McCown.
Robby Anderson has been the big star as of late. An undrafted free agent in 2016, Anderson made the Jets roster as the team’s fifth receiving option. When Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker left in the offseason, and Quincy Enunwa missed all of 2017 with a neck injury, Anderson climbed the depth chart.
Since then, he’s had a breakout season, currently riding a five-game streak of at least one touchdown catch. In said five games, Anderson has caught 23 passes for 418 yards, six touchdowns, and 18.2 yards per reception.
This is no fluke either. Robby Anderson has become the WR1 for the Jets, and has emerged as one of the best vertical receivers in the sport.
Last season, Anderson saw ample playing time, but never got the play making opportunities he’s had this year. This was because he was constantly getting missed by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty despite constantly creating separation downfield.
That’s all changed this year. In just 11 games, Anderson has 41 catches for 714 yards and seven touchdowns. Compare that to last year, when in 16 games he had 42 catches for 587 yards and two touchdowns. His 17.4 yards per reception are also the fourth highest of the year.
Not much has really changed. It’s just that Anderson is getting a lot more opportunities to make plays on the ball this year.
The first thing that comes to mind when watching Anderson is how he attacks the ball. Like Odell Beckham or Michael Crabtree, he’s a strong-handed receiver that reaches out and pulls passes to him like some sort of magnet.
An example is shown on the play above on 2nd and 4. It’s a simple out route from Anderson, but the pass from McCown is thrown high. Anderson understands this, and instead of jumping for the pass (he’s 6’3 after all), he stays balanced despite the adjustment, attacks the ball, pulls it in quick, and gets both of his feet in bounds for an impressive play.
For a vertical receiver to be a vertical receiver, he needs to be fast and win contested matchups. Great vertical receivers like DeSean Jackson and Adam Thielen both do this, and Anderson appears to be following in their footsteps.
Anderson has been money on vertical passes this season because he’s been so good as a possession receiver. This is where vertical receivers are especially counted on the most. They need to be aggressive and win at contested catch points to not just prove the offense’s worth, but their worth as well.
On this play, Anderson creates separation against the corner. The pass from McCown is catchable enough, but the placement asks for the receiver to win a tight battle at the catch point. You wouldn’t usually expect this from a 190 lb receiver, but Anderson proves he is an outlier.
His timing on the catch is perfect. Right before he crosses the end zone, he hops in the air and stretches his arms over the corner. This technique allows him to easily secure the ball while keeping his momentum going forward. The result is a pretty touchdown catch.
Anderson also has the speed to burn corners downfield. Against Desmond Trufant here, he performs a stutter step move that allows him to create separation. The speed does the rest, giving the quarterback an easy touchdown pass in the end zone. #11’s route running is solid, and provides as the ingredients to his possession catching ability and vertical speed.
Most importantly, Anderson is extremely consistent. He’s constantly been asked to pull in inaccurate throws or win in tight matchups, and for the most part he’s done this.
On this play, Anderson again creates instant separation with a stutter step, allowing him to cut outside. This should lead to an easy touchdown, but the accuracy of McCown’s throw forces the receiver to adjust behind him. Fortunately, Anderson attacks the ball instead of waiting for it to get to him. When he snatches it, he instantly swipes to his right and cradles the ball in his chest, preventing the defensive back from disrupting the play.
The result is another phenomenal touchdown catch.
We all appreciate a good undrafted player, and as a really good player Robby Anderson has managed to be one of those guys for the Jets. As a vertical receiver, he’s evolved into one of the more dangerous guys, combining explosive speed with quality route running and excellent athleticism and consistency at the catch point.
The Jets managed to pick up a gem that climbed his way to being the #1 receiver for the 2017 season, and the Temple standout has proven he can be reliable for years to come. John Morton has helped set the young receiver up to be in positions where he can truly shine and display his skill set.
Make no mistake: Robby Anderson is having a Pro Bowl stretch, and is letting his play do the talking.