“America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.” -Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936.
Robby Anderson is having a breakout second season in the NFL. His success has been mainly based on one thing, his deep route running ability. While he has shown an ability to master some of the more subtle nuances of deep routes, his biggest attribute is pure speed.
Once you start having success doing something in the NFL, other teams take note. They start trying to take away the thing you do well. Of course, that opens up new opportunities.
In Sunday’s game the Chiefs were clearly focused on trying to prevent Anderson from getting loose deep down the field. Their defenders gave enormous cushions so Anderson could not run by them. This allowed Anderson plenty of room to work underneath, and the Jets were able to use him to dink and dunk.
Let’s look at five such plays.
8 yard gain
It really doesn’t get much easier than this. The corner in coverage is bailing at the snap.
You can see the cushion here as Josh McCown is throwing the ball. This is as easy of a completion as you can get.
7 yard gain
This play near the goal line is a tad different. Josh McCown sees the presnap alignment and decides to get the ball to Anderson in space. Darrelle Revis is giving Anderson so much cushion that the Chiefs have conceded easy yardage.
You can actually see by the blocking and action of the back that a run play was called.
Quarterbacks and receivers generally are given the freedom to do this if the cornerback is playing too far off. It is called a smoke route. No matter what play is actually called, too much cushion means the quarterback can take the free yards the defense is willing to give away.
Revis looks like he wants no part of this tackle. The Jets saw this kind of effort all last season. One might imagine the coaching staff emphasized during the week to take advantage if situations like this presented themselves and Revis was putting himself in a position where he would have to make a tackle on a smoke route. It was nice recognition by McCown and a good run by Anderson.
8 yard gain
This is simple like the first play above. There is too much cushion, which leads to an easy completion.
14 yard gain
Here the Jets stick Anderson in the slot, and again he takes advantage of too much fear of his deep ability.
16 yard gain
Finally the Jets use some motion to shake Anderson free.
The defender following him again is fearful of something vertical and gets caught too far outside and providing too much cushion. Anderson surprises him by running a shallow crossing route.
It is almost comedic how open Anderson gets.
Through the year I have said that Anderson needs to improve running short and intermediate routes to become a more complete receiver. That might not be true if other defenses in the league play him like this. You can run the worst route in the world and still record a reception against this kind of defense. The Chiefs didn’t even bother covering him on anything except deep vertical stuff.
It shows the kind of respect Anderson is starting to command. Word is clearly getting out in the league about his ability as a deep threat, and the Chiefs approached him scared.
I can’t imagine other teams will give him such an easy time on short routes going forward, but this week’s lesson is deep speed can open up the short area of the field if you get the defense scared.