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A Look Back at Robby Anderson

Indianapolis Colts v New York Jets Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

A Look Back at Robby Anderson

Robby Anderson has had to fight for respect it seems his entire life. Some of that is due to his own shortcomings, but none of those shortcomings were on a football field. Given the fact that Robby was born less than 9 miles from MetLife Stadium and starred at Temple University about 80 miles south, he should have been a natural fit for the green and white. Still he took the long way in getting to the Jets. Now that he is here he is looking forward to becoming an integral part of a new era Jets resurgence, one of the Jets most potent weapons in 2019 and beyond.

Lets first backtrack to see how Robby Anderson made his way to the NFL.

Robby was born in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, in 1993. His family moved to Plantation, Florida, when he was a child. He grew up in a poor section of town where temptation to do unlawful things was all around. He got into some trouble in high school (nothing very serious) and had a choice to continue in that direction or devote himself to sports as a way to possibly help his future.

His high school football coaches Doug Gatewood and Delvin Randolph preached to Robby the virtues of sports so Robby played football and ran track. Everyone noticed he was extremely fast. Robby played DB and WR at Plantation High. He had 25 TDs, over 1,900 yards receiving, and 3 INTs in his career.

When colleges came looking for players Robby was not very sought after. His petty foibles as a young man contributed plus he was very slender. This combined with the fact that Robby wasn’t a great student hurt his chances with well known programs. He only received scholarship offers from Central Michigan and Temple. Robby enrolled at Temple University in 2011 and was a redshirt that season. He played in only 6 games in 2012 (mostly on special teams) and was listed as a CB not a WR.

In 2013 Robby felt lost at Temple. He had few friends. The climate was completely different than he was used to in Florida, and he was running with the second team defense as a CB. He then quit the team and moved back to Florida. After many discussions with friends and family he called his coach (Matt Rhule) and asked if he could return. He was invited back as a non scholarship athlete late in the summer. When he came back he worked as a WR and reached the starting lineup in the 5th game.

He had a breakout game against SMU that set a new school record for receiving yards at 239. He ended the year with a 3 TD game against Memphis., He finished the year with 44 receptions, 791 receiving yards and 9 TDs. He was thought to be Temple’s #1 receiver for 2014 and could be a 2nd day NFL draft pick if he did well. That did not happen as Robby as he was dismissed from Temple shortly after the season because of poor grades.

Robby went back to Florida figuring his dream of playing in the NFL was over. It took some time and prodding from his mom, but Anderson went back to school and studied like he never studied before. He needed nearly straight “A’s” to make it back to Temple. It took the entire 2014 year, but Anderson made his grades and played the 2015 season at Temple. He played 14 games with 70 receptions, 939 yards and 7 TDs despite having a poor QB. He was not invited to the NFL Combine which hurt his chances at being drafted.

Robby did well at his pro day and ran a 4.36/40 which would have been 3rd best at the Combine. The fact that he left school twice, problems in the past, and the Combine snub left Robby as a UDFA after the draft. He signed with the Jets, went to rookie minicamp, and then home to Florida. While in Florida he met with Chad (Ocho Cinco) Johnson who grew up in the same neighborhood as Robby. Chad worked with Robby some and gave him advice (like only Chad can give) which gave Robby confidence going into training camp.

Anderson entered training camp far down on the list of WR with a chance to make the roster. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa were certain locks to make the team so that left just a few spots. Robby worked hard in camp and excelled in preseason games. He finished with 13 receptions, 264 yards and 3 TDs. He made the team then received a great chance to play in meaningful games when Eric Decker went down for the year with an injury. He showed he can compete with plays like this.

That was Fitzpatrick just throwing it up (into coverage) giving the new guy a chance, and he came through. Robby started by playing most of his snaps in the slot but moved outside to the boundary later in the year. Robby at the time was one of those players who was faster than quick so the move outside was a welcome change. It allowed him to feel more comfortable, running routes he had run many times in college. At the same time he was developing trust from his QB along with the rest of his teammates.

Here he catches his 1st TD in a home game on Monday Night Football from Bryce Petty, a memory he will have for a lifetime. It had to be very gratifying for Robby after his life’s journey to actually have an NFL receiving TD on his resume. He came a long way as a skinny kid from South Florida. You know he had to be teased unmercifully by peers when he said he wanted to play in the NFL. No one knows all he went through except some family and a few close friends. Those two high school coaches who believed in Robby. They set him on a path to success instead of an unknown future in his neighborhood. They have to sit back and smile knowing they probably set a kid on a path to this type of success.

As a rookie UDFA WR this play showed he had the kind of speed that can beat a defense deep no matter what the coverage. The Jets were getting destroyed in this game, but still it is a huge stage for an unknown player to step up and make a play. It put him on the map as a possible playmaker.

After that Robby showed he had big play capabilities with a play later in the year against the same Dolphins team. This now showed that Robby could succeed on routes other than “9” routes or other “go” type routes. He also will venture across the middle on in breaking routes as well as run intermediate type routes. It is a nice step in the route progression for a player who might have been known as only a player who can take the top off a defense.

As he progressed as a receiver he had a hard time convincing people he was an all around good receiver. He went back to Florida and worked with Chad (Ocho Cinco) Johnson on his footwork. Being a lean boundary receiver he needs to be able to beat press coverage in order to get into his routes in a timely fashion. Chad Johnson always had very quick feet so Robby worked on footwork since he wasn’t going to break press coverage with his strength.

Here he is working against one of the better cover corners in the NFL in Desmond Trufant. You can see the quick feet as Robby feigns a move to the left only to come back to the right breaking free easily and then just dusting Trufant.

Trufant makes the mistake of playing man coverage but not pressing Robby off the line. With Robby’s speed and footwork there was no way Trufant could keep up. He is beaten soundly in the first 5 yards. Once Robby got even with Trufant, with nothing but open space and an end zone in front of him, it was over. Trufant is considered an excellent defender.

This next clip is basically the same play although it is a sight adjustment by McCown and Robby. The Dolphins are playing a single high safety on the hash farthest away from Robby’s side. You see McCown look left at the snap fully knowing that he was coming back right, he is trying to hold the safety to the left side of the field as long as possible.

Alterraun Verner #42 was a Pro Bowl zone corner who just gets roasted in man coverage. You had to know the Jets were just waiting for this matchup. Robby gives a cursory lean to the outside then takes off on an inside release, and again this race was over after the first 5 yards. This is an easy 69 yard TD. This is the skill set Robby brings to the Jets that no other player on the squad has. Robby is 26 with his prime years ahead of him.

This next clip is again that same sight adjustment play, but this time McCown doesn’t hold the safety long enough with his look left. With corner Logan Ryan playing off Robby’s outside shoulder all Robby had to do is take one step right and blast back inside to gain the advantage. You can see again that after 5 yards the race is over.

Kevin Byard #31 is an All Pro safety and reads the play fairly quickly. He gets over just in time to stop a TD. Even with that Robby had to slow down just a bit to wait on the ball then adjust to the throw that is wisely lead to the outside, away from the defenders. By allowing Robby inside leverage the defense was giving him room away from the sideline. This way when McCown’s throw is towards the sideline it is away from the defenders on the play.

When you can make plays like these long passes, it will force the defense play a more passive coverage with a lots of deep zone which will open up plays underneath. Robby has stated openly that he believes he can be a 10 target a game player. and to do that you have to be able to run all kinds of different routes. It’s a good thing he can do that. Here against the evil empire he shows some speed and versatility.

This was a 2nd and 10 play that is just a simple swing pass to a motion man but turns into much more with Robby’s speed. This is s safe pass that gets Robby to the edge of the defense and allows him to gain 16 yards from the 14 all the way to the 30.

Later in the same game it is 4th and 12 ,and Robby is able to get inside the middle of the zone and gain 32 yards on just a simple in route. The speed that Robby has is not just useful on go routes. It also makes defenders give a wider angles when trying to tackle him in the open field. Robby is not real elusive but he is able to exploit seams and gaps in the defense by racing through them before they close.

The Patriots are blitzing on the play so it left Devin McCourty alone in coverage. Because of Robby’s speed he plays outside influence coverage so he squeezes Robby inside towards the middle of the defense where he can get help. This works to perfection, but he is so far off in coverage it allows an easy catc. Although McCourty didn’t allow a TD he did allow a huge play on a 4th and 12 situation.

When a defense plays against speed you will often see them playing two high safeties to have more deep coverage, use a safety over the top of a receiver (high and low coverage), or play quarters coverage with the DBs. Here the Dolphins are playing two high safeties when the safety from Robby’s side of the field decides to help out on the TE who is running an out route to the sideline. You see McCown just read this, excitedly it is as if he couldn’t get the ball out of his hand fast enough on a gift TD pass.

You can see Cordrea Tankersley get totally toasted on the play then turn around and look at the safety in astonishment. He thought he had deep inside help but the safety deserted him for an out route. In the NFL speed kills so when you make a mistake in coverage it doesn’t take long to find the other team in the end zone.

You see a lot of teams who play man coverage using the outside shoulder technique against Robby to force him inside and towards possible help from safeties. The reasoning is sound because when you play heads up on Robby you give him a choice of directions to go. This makes it very difficult to guard him one on one. This is against the #13 PFF graded corner from the 2017 season, and Robby beats him like a drum.

Tre’Davious White gives Robby that free release, so when Robby takes the outside route White has no help over the top. This is also great route running as Robby leaves himself a good 5 yards between him and the sideline to allow McCown room to fit a pass in. Once again White is beaten badly in the first 5 yards so if the throw is on the money he cannot prevent a TD. The throw in a little behind, but Robby reaches back, hauls in the throw, puts it away snugly then falls harmlessly out of bounds. You can see two other defenders came over to lend assistance but they are just spectators on the play.

Even when you do play the correct coverage with the defense is spot on in their assignments it doesn’t guarantee success. Here the Carolina Panthers are playing over coverage on Robby with James Bradberry in coverage and Mike Adams over top. Bradberry graded out as the #26 PFF ranked corner of that season.

With the Panthers up by 9 with less than 90 seconds to go in the first half this is the correct coverage to play. You make the Jets try a field goal instead of getting a TD. Yet great players can make great plays, knowing Robby is 6’ 3” and Mike Adams is 5’ 11’ with Bradberry at 6’ 1” so McCown throw a high arching ball that Robby can reach up to grab.

The next clip is a drag route where Robby comes back inside the TE in sort of a rub play which helps Robby to get into open space. Again it is Trufant on the coverage. He gets held up by the ILB who is tangled the TE so he is late coming over. By the time he makes it back to the play Robby is downfield for a 25 yard play.

This is a safe, huge play in the 4th quarter of a close game in the rain. It once again shows the versatility of Robby in his route running and how far he has come from that first TD he scored on a Monday night.

This next play is just idiotic coverage against Robby for the situation. With less than a minute to go in the game and the Jets down by 12 you would think you would double cover the fastest man on the field or that least give over the top help. Brent Grimes was the #30 PFF ranked corner in that year, and he probably would have been ranked higher if he was given some help on this play.

You know you have great speed when the entire stadium knows your team has to try and throw the ball deep yet the do it successfully anyway. This ball is even underthrown by a few yards, but Robby is able to reach back to haul it in anyway. Robby’s not given the credit deserved for his hand especially in contested situations.

This next clip is of Robby against Bradley Roby who I was very high on as a DB coming out in the Draft in 2014. Here he is playing an off coverage plus he is giving ground at the snap. The problem with that is if you stop your feet for even a split second your a dead duck; which is exactly what happens.

This is a 76 yard TD pass from Sam Darnold to a wide open Robby Anderson because of a double move. It’s the one area where Bradley Roby struggles in coverage so it was wise to try the move on him.

You can see it much clearer in another view.

Bradley Roby ran 4.39/40 at the Combine, but Anderson makes him look slow. You can see Bradley stop his backpedal for just a second but that is all it took. With no help over the top it was an easy pitch and catch for Sam and Robby. We will look for much more of this in the years to come in the coach Gase offense. The new offense is said to be much more vertical than Bates’ offense, and the players (WR’s) seem to like it as does Robby. “That’s what I’ve been waiting for.” Robby is quoted as saying, ”Now I have a coach that’s going to utilize me as a player, not just make me run straight down the field. Look at my second year [2017]. I wasn’t just running straight down the field. I was getting the ball in my hands, getting touches, getting momentum, opening things up for other people, and we were putting up points. Last year was hard. I was kind of put into a box. But I know this year, it’s going to be lights out.” “Nothing else should be our goal besides the Super Bowl,”

This last play has Sam and Robby hooking up against the Texans near the goal line. The more these two work together the better it should be. As earlier when a veteran like McCown was in the game; both Robby and he were able to see the same opportunities in coverage and make a sight adjustment with just a look. Sam and Robby should develop the same QB/WR coordination that McCown and Robby had, only better. It will take some time but the trust factor between players is vital to a dynamic offense.

Plays like this can be effective in opening up space for the receivers, TE’s and RB’s. Intermediate routes that find holes in zones are crucial plus this is no short route. It gained 26 yards. When Sam came back from injury last year Robby caught 23 balls for 336 yard and 3 TDs in the last 4 games. This bodes well for the future and these two leading the charge on offense with a lot more weapons to use this year.

As most of you know Robby has been his own worst enemy at times. He has made some poor decisions but he is older now. He has had time to think and change his mindset. His uncle Daniel Harris (who has been like a father to Robby) said, “I think that last arrest pretty much woke him up. It got his attention as far as what could’ve happened as far as playing in the NFL, I think he realized his career could be over in an instant.”

Robby can be an unrestricted free agent in 2020. As a restricted free agent he signed a 1 year $3.11 million contract this year. He has worked hard to get to this point in his life so it seems he finally realized what was at stake for him.

“I worked hard my whole life to be something and see new things and better places, and be great to build a legacy and do amazing things. I don’t want to be stuck or slowed down and fall into bad situations. I don’t want to be known or remembered as somebody that went to jail and his career went downhill. I refuse to let that happen to me ever again. Period.”

Robby says he understands now how important his decisions in life are now, “I really think about things before I do them. No discredit from where I come from, but I made it out of certain things. Not everything deserves your attention. Sometimes it’s the simple thing of involving yourself in other people’s problems. It kind of pulls you back. As a man, I don’t deserve to keep getting tugged and pulled. But I don’t want to blame anything on anybody.”

The additions to the Jets offense has also gotten the attention of Robby, plus all of it’s possible ramifications. “Well, they can’t double team me no more and they can’t stay over the top in coverage because if they do, they’re going to get loose underneath too. It’s going to be explosive. It’s what we’ve been waiting for. I think everybody is excited to see that we’re a legitimate team now.”

Being in a contract year has not escaped Robby’s mind either. With the possibility of a huge year and with it a huge contract, he is as fixated on the future like never before, “It’s huge, my eyes are on the prize more than ever. I’m just more focused than ever.”

Robby Anderson has been the lone deep threat for the Jets the past 3 seasons in a non-vertical offense. In this variable offense, the chance to take more shots downfield should be much higher than in recent memory. Robby’s 155 receptions and 15 TDs in the last 3 years is decent considering he was not even close to the focal point of the passing game. As I have shown you here, Robby Anderson has the chance to be a wildly dynamic player for the Jets if given the opportunity.

I have felt the same sort of frustration with Robby’s usage as he has, well maybe not near as much as he has, “It’s frustrating when you know your capabilities and you know that you should be an at least 10 targets a game receiver, because you know the impact you have on the game. And that’s not given to you. And you’ve proven that.”

He came to camp focused this year with the hopes of this new Gase offense, but also because he felt a little cheated the way last years Bates run offense allowed him a mere 50 receptions on the year. “I ended the season frustrated, I didn’t take a vacation this year, so far this offseason, because I didn’t feel like I had anything to really kick my feet up about. That was a down year for me last year. I know my capabilities. I know what I want to become, and that’s the best receiver in the NFL,” Anderson said.

I am hoping that the Jets do something smart and lock Robby Anderson up with a new contract this offseason. I have heard nothing about an extension even though Joe Douglas is on record as saying he was impressed by Anderson. He watched 6 games of tape on the Jets before he interviewed for the GM job.

“He’s a tough weapon for defenses to match up with, he can get behind you and he can challenge the defense vertically” Douglas said. As the only player on the roster who can do that he is a very valuable weapon. I think if the Jets wanted to they could sign an extension (with language to protect the team should Robby get in trouble again) before training camp fairly easily.

The Jets have a little over $28 million in cap space minus about 4 to 5 million for Quinnen Williams so if the Jets take the 3 million Anderson is earning this year and add on 4 years at $7 million a year with 40% guaranteed and a $8 million signing bonus I think that could get it done. That would take Robby until he is 31 give him $11 million this year total it would be about a $6.6 million cap hit for the next 5 years which is a bargain for a dynamic receiver like Robby. Plus he is entering his prime years so you are getting a discount in his prime years which is better than overpaying for a veteran or having a rookie who is learning his craft. It also gives Sam a receiver he is very familiar with for the next 5 years.

That would leave the Jets about $18 million in cap space for the year, there will be roster moves but none that will drastically alter the salary cap. That is a decent amount to roll over to next year where the Jets would have around $64 million to start the year with. We can add some key pieces and extend Jamal Adams before he starts his 4th year with that money and still save enough cash to extend Sam Darnold in 2022.

Bottom line I think when you have a player who can get you easy TDs in a game where most games go down to the wire; it is essential we lock up some of our key building block players for the years ahead and bring in other like them to build upon. I think Robby Anderson is a building block kind of player.

What do you think?