Getting away from Adam Gase was all it took for Robby Anderson to realize his potential.
Anderson got his start with the Jets when Todd Bowles was head coach and functioned mainly as a one-trick pony running go routes. Anderson made his name as a legitimate deep threat in that role, but there was always the thought that he could be a more complete receiver under the guidance of an offensive-minded head coach. That was supposed to be Gase, but Anderson remained the exact same type of player in the head coach’s first season in New York in 2019.
Gase praised Anderson’s route-running ability leading up to the regular season, but rarely used him on anything other than post and go routes. Seldom did Anderson run intermediate or short routes, nor did he line up anywhere other than the boundary. He caught more passes (52) and registered more receiving yards (779) in 2019 than he did the year before, but it felt like a disappointing season for Anderson considering what could have been.
Now reunited with Matt Rhule, his head coach at Temple, Anderson has taken the next step in his natural progression as a wide receiver in Carolina. Anderson hasn’t just broken out with the Panthers. He has established himself as Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite target and has surpassed D.J. Moore as Carolina’s No. 1 wide receiver.
And it’s all because of how he is being used.
Anderson’s route tree is no longer being restricted. Yes, he is still a deep threat that can take the top off a defense on any given play, but he has been afforded more freedom with his route running and where he lines up in offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s scheme. Anderson has been used both on the boundary and in the slot — a rarity when he was with the Jets.
“I love being in this system because for so long it was, ‘Oh, he’s only a deep threat,’” Anderson recently said on Josina Anderson’s Undefined show. “It used to eat me up because I’m like, ‘I know what I can do.’ I love that I’m in this offense, where I really get to catch and run and play football.”
Robby Anderson: WR1
— PFF (@PFF) October 11, 2020
After Week 5, Anderson is third in the NFL in receptions (36) and receiving yards (489). He is also second in the league in yards per touch with 13.3, fifth in receiving yards with 97.8 per game and 10th in yards from scrimmage with 492. To put some of those numbers in perspective, it took Anderson 12 games to register 36 catches and another 12 games to surpass 489 receiving yards with the Jets in 2019.
It has become clear that the Jets made a mistake spurning Anderson, who got a two-year, $20 million deal from Carolina, for a clearance rack signing in Breshad Perriman. However, there is no guarantee Anderson ever would have performed at this level with the Jets anyway. Like many of his offensive skill position players, Gase struggled to utilize Anderson properly. New York rarely played to his strengths and, as a result, Anderson posted mediocre production at best.
Anderson was beloved in the locker room at One Jets Drive and by the fanbase, but odds are his career was never going to take flight in New York. Mark him down as yet another player who just needed a divorce from Gase to take his game to the next level.