The New York Jets are in a position to make some noise this upcoming season. Especially when the brutal truth surrounding wide receiver Robby Anderson and why he is special is illustrated consistently in 2016.
The youth movement at wide receiver for the New York Jets has received so much attention in part because this level of offensive talent is so unusual for fans to see. Three of these young wide receivers have stood out: Charon Peake, Jalin Marshall, and Robby Anderson.
For the record, I would love to see all three make the team (at the time of this writing, roster cuts are happening). Peake could be a beast of a receiver in the red zone and on third down. He should also become a terrific blocker. Marshall shows superb balance, an eye for space and, some ball security issues aside, has made several fine catches.
Anderson is different. Let’s take a little time to think about what we might be seeing here. Warning: hyperbole will be used. It would be easy to wait until he catches a Super Bowl pass, announces his stardom with outrageous regular season statistics, and takes Arizona Cardinal’s cornerback Patrick Peterson to the woodshed to proclaim the Anderson phenomenon the greatest Jet find since Joe Namath.
But why wait? This is sports, not nuclear policy. Let’s throw caution to the wind and have some fun! Anderson’s preseason statistics are eye-popping enough: 13 passes caught for 264 yards, three touchdowns with 20.3 yards per catch average. Peake, who had a fine preseason himself, is a distant second with 103 yards and 10.3 yards per catch.
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The most memorable of Anderson’s catches are surely the long ones, the two forty-plus yard receptions from quarterback Bryce Petty against Washington, the touchdown against Philadelphia; but that amounts to approximately three or four of his thirteen.
Remember, he also has three more receptions than anyone else.
He catches long and short passes, gets open long and finds space short.
You may also know that he runs a 4.28 forty.
That’s not fast; that’s scary fast.
These are the numbers and stats like these matter regardless of whether they are accomplished in the preseason or regular season. They are not, however, what makes Anderson such a find.
Anderson does something well it usually takes receivers at least a full season to master: he keeps his hands to himself until just before the ball drops in. The movement is so smooth it takes several replays to see where he caught the ball against Washington. His hands suddenly rise up, snatch the ball high, he accelerates and he’s gone. It’s all one movement. His subtle movement means that defensive backs fail to look for the ball until it’s too late.
Anderson is also deceptively fast. That sounds odd to say about someone who runs under 4.3, but it is nonetheless true. He runs so effortlessly a defensive back will not realize just how fast Anderson’s moving until he’s reading the name on the back of his jersey.
Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson (83) scores against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Now Anderson’s style can also be his undoing. Here is an analogy: Anderson is the Carlos Beltran of running rather than the Jose Reyes. To watch Reyes run is to know he is working hard. Arms and legs and chest and helmet fly in every direction.
Beltran makes it look easy. Smooth arcing strides cover swathes of center-field lawn; he stretches out and lets the ball fall quietly into his glove; his demeanor never changes. Beautiful to watch. Unfortunately, if Beltran slumps, he looks like he is not working hard or doesn’t care and fans react negatively. His very talent—that same silky smooth style–now provides a bad optic.
Anderson is smoother than Beltran. Anderson is the Marvin Gaye of wide-receivers. However, a couple of drops can lead to a similar—and similarly silly—judgment. Please Jets fans, never make the mistake of Mets fans. Beltran was a great Met. And Anderson, should he make the team, will be a great Jet.
Here is where, Jets fans, I will suggest something that may be borderline heresy; that sounds so outrageous you may scream, bleach your ears with metal music so loud you hear nothing for a week, and drop your computer from the top of the Empire State Building.
First, the evidence: sure-handed, smooth as silk, he gets open short and long, catches the ball from any quarterback, runs precision routes without excess movement, and is deceptively fast. After the game, his uniform looks like it just came back from the laundry. Who does this resemble? Who, I ask? Jerry Rice, that’s who. That is precisely who he looks like. Crazy? I know. Even when I typed it, I shrugged off a shudder.
But there it is: it’s what I see and what I can not see. Jerry Rice. The Jets may have found themselves a future Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver. Why wait until everyone says it? Let’s have some courage and name what we’re seeing.
Well played Mr. Maccagnan, well played.