Robby Anderson has been coming on late in the season, just in time to raise his value to the Jets and on the open market.
Certainly, this is not a coincidence. The talented wide receiver will be a free agent in the offseason, and Anderson has helped his odds of getting paid.
Amari Cooper and A.J. Green are at the head of a rather pedestrian wide receiver class. Anderson could be looking at an annual salary starting at about $11 million to $12 million or more.
There was a point during the season when that didn’t seem likely and Anderson’s future as a Jet was on shaky ground. Now it appears there’s at least a chance that he will be back next season – at the right price.
Anderson, 26, has developed good chemistry with Sam Darnold. There’s no denying Anderson’s playmaking ability – and the Jets need playmakers.
In his last four games, Anderson has caught 22 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns. In his first 10, he had 25 catches for 359 yards and two scores.
“The season might not always start how you expect,” Anderson said, “but it has the ability to end more so as you would hope.”
He hopes to continue his roll Sunday against the Steelers in the Jets’ home finale. He has done this before. Late last season, he put up big numbers in a three-game stretch — 20 catches, 312 yards and three touchdowns.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas and coach Adam Gase have to determine whether they believe this is who Anderson is.
It’s clear the Jets need help on both sides of the ball, with edge rusher, offensive line and cornerback being the most glaring. Receiver is another spot that needs to be addressed.
Even if they keep Anderson, they’ll need to add more depth and possibly a true No. 1 receiver. Anderson believes he is one, and he wants to prove it in a Jets uniform.
“That’s the goal, the ultimate goal,” he said. “This is where I’ve been. If I wanted to be somewhere else, I would have expressed that a long time ago. That’s obviously not what I want. But it’s a business.”
At this point, you can make a strong case for the Jets keeping Anderson. They can let him and Darnold and slot receiver Jamison Crowder continue to work together in Gase’s offense, given that team CEO Christopher Johnson has declared that the coach will return next season.
Gase recently gave Anderson a strong endorsement. He was talking about players improving and helping themselves to get a new contract, and Anderson was the only one he mentioned specifically.
“I think there is a lot of guys that have probably helped themselves,” Gase said. “Offensively, one guy that I can say, Robby Anderson I've seen really make some huge strides this last month. I've seen him do some different things that he wasn't necessarily doing earlier in the season consistently. He's really made some huge strides for us and I think that he's a guy that's really popped off on tape.”
The things Anderson has been doing differently and better stem from him attacking the football.
The knocks have been that Anderson doesn’t make contested catches or come back to the ball. He has been doing both much more late in the season.
“He’s done an awesome job of making the contested catches,” receivers coach Shawn Jefferson said. “Those catches are hard to make. Robby is about a buck-seventy soaking wet. He’s going against guys like 200 pounds, fighting for those balls. He’s come up with the balls at crucial moments for us.''
Anderson also has shown he can run more than just a go route. He’s always wanted to show he’s more than a deep threat and has done that, proving he can run every route.
“I like that a lot,” he said. “I think a lot of people get confused by that effect of like I’m able to go deep means I can only do that. A lot of people in the NFL can’t go deep. They can only run short routes. I feel like I’ve always been able to do the things I’m doing. It just wasn’t the style of offense, play-calling and things like that.”
Anderson is playing in his fourth different offense in four years. No receiver was happy with the way they were used last year under former coordinator Jeremy Bates.
This season, Anderson expected things to be different with the offensive-minded Gase replacing the defensive-oriented Todd Bowles as head coach. Anderson figured he would be targeted 10 or more times per game and put up the kind of numbers that elite receivers do.
But until recently, it was a lot of the same: wondering where Anderson was and when he would show up.
When Darnold came down with mononucleosis, Luke Falk was the quarterback for three games, and the entire offense looked sickly.
In Darnold’s first game back, he connected with Anderson five times for 125 yards and a touchdown, but he totaled 103 receiving yards and one touchdown the following five games.
Anderson is on one of those hot streaks again, and he said the reason is simple.
“Opportunity,” he said. “Targets. If you look at the past few games that I’ve had good games, I’ve had a larger amount of targets. I think I’ve shown if I’m given the opportunity, I’m able to produce.”