Jets fans have been waiting for The One. The Number One wide receiver. The One undrafted free agent that becomes a star. The One player on offense that actually scares opponents’ defensive coordinators. The One.
The wait may be over.
For a while now Jets fans have wondered why we can’t find an undrafted free agent the likes of a Victor Cruz, who flared briefly like a comet for the cross town Giants before fading quickly from the scene. Don’t look now, but Robby Anderson is beginning to do a nifty Cruz impression. No, he’s not there yet, and he’s not exactly the same type of receiver. But in just his second year in the NFL, at the tender age of 24, Robby Anderson is now on track for a 1040 yard, 10 touchdown season. If Robby achieves those totals he would match Cruz’s career high in touchdowns and come just 50 yards shy of Cruz’s second best single season yardage total.
For a while now Jets fans have longed for a deep threat that can take the top off a defense. Robby Anderson is that deep threat. He isn’t anywhere close to the fastest Jets wide receiver in recent years. The likes of Clyde Gates, Stephen Hill and a host of other nobodies all outran Robby in the 40 yard dash. But Robby outruns defenders where it counts, on the football field. Opponents know he is going deep, they know the Jets don’t have any other premium receivers to worry about, they devote top defensive resources to take Anderson away, and they still can’t stop him. Lately they barely slow him down.
It’s no secret what Robby Anderson can’t do. He will never be that receiver that consistently out-muscles defenders for the ball. He is not now and may never be an elite route runner. But as an NFL mind much wiser than I once said, and I paraphrase here, don’t tell me what a guy can’t do. There’s always something a guy can’t do. Tell me what he can do, and we’ll make that work.
What Robby can do is beat guys deep, repeatedly. He is surprisingly successful at fighting for the ball, and his route running, while still a work in progress, is slowly improving. But Robby Anderson’s bread and butter is beating you deep, even when you know it’s coming. If he can do that often enough, it doesn’t matter all that much what he can’t do. What he can do is light you up and find the end zone. If he’s doing that to the tune of 1000+ yards and double digit touchdowns, that sure sounds like a number one to me.
Robby Anderson is on track in just his second NFL season to do things almost nobody has ever done for the Jets. Brandon Marshall had that glorious 2015 season where he went off for 1500+ yards and 14 touchdowns, the most prolific single season for a Jets wide receiver ever, and Eric Decker also had 1000+ yards and 12 touchdowns that year. Before that? It’s been a long time since anybody had a definitively better season at wide receiver for the Jets than the one Robby Anderson’s having this season.
Santonio Holmes? He never had more than 750 yards or more than 8 touchdowns for the Jets. Santana Moss? He topped out at 1105 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Jets, roughly equivalent to the 1040 yards and 10 touchdowns Anderson is now on track for in 2017. Rob Moore? He topped out at 1010 yards and 6 touchdowns for the Jets. Al Toon topped out at 1176 yards and 8 touchdowns. Laveranues Coles’ best season in a Jets uniform he went for 1264 yards and 5 touchdowns. Keyshawn Johnson’s best year for the Jets he had 1131 yards and 10 touchdowns. You have to go all the way back 30+ years ago, to Wesley Walker’s best season, when he had 1016 yards and 12 touchdowns, to find a Jets receiver with better numbers than Anderson’s on track for in 2017. And you have to go all the way back to the legendary Hall of Fame Jets receiver Don Maynard, who had three 1200+ yards and 10+ touchdown seasons in a Jets uniform, to find somebody who did it more than once.
Robby Anderson is currently 4th in the NFL in yards per reception. He is tied for 5th in the NFL in receiving touchdowns. He is 14th in the NFL in receiving yards. He is averaging a superb 9.65 yards per target, 9th among all NFL receivers with 50 or more targets, despite being mired in a mediocre Jets passing attack. Those sound like number one wide receiver numbers to me.
Is Robby Anderson a complete receiver? No. Is he a great route runner? No. Is he a dominant physical presence? No. There are plenty of things Robby Anderson is not. Let’s talk about what he is. What Robby Anderson is, is the breakout undrafted free agent Jets fans have been waiting for. What he is, is the legitimate deep threat Jets fans have hungered for. What he is, is a legitimate number one receiver. And if you don’t think that’s true there are at least 20+ NFL teams that would love to be getting the kind of production out of their number one receivers the Jets are getting out of Anderson. Mr. Anderson. He is The One.