And on the eighth day of training camp, Robby Anderson still looked bad. But that has changed.
It was only last week that Anderson looked like a player lost. The second-year wide receiver spent the first few days of training camp struggling with his route-running, dropping passes and otherwise appearing ill-suited to being the second wide receiver on a professional football team.
It was on that eighth day when Anderson found out he wouldn’t, in fact, be the Jets’ second wide receiver.
He’d be their first.
And on the ninth day of training camp — and ever since — Anderson has found the light.
It’s been six days since the Jets announced that their tattered offense would have to skate by without Quincy Enunwa, who’s out for the year with a bulging disc in his neck. And much to the surprise of anyone who watched Anderson in those first few days, the undrafted receiver from Temple has responded in promising fashion.
While no one is saying that Anderson would be the No. 1 wide receiver on any other team but this one, his showing Saturday night in the Jets’ 7-3 preseason win over the Titans was an encouraging sign. He made three catches for 71 yards and reeled in a 53-yard beauty that points to big-play potential.
“Speed is a premium in this league, and he has it in droves,” quarterback Josh McCown said. “When you have that kind of speed, the sky is the limit for you and I think — I guess what I’m learning and probably what was underestimated on Robby was his ball skills. He really has excellent ball skills and he’s tougher than his [6-3, 190- pound] frame would suggest, so I think, obviously, the sky is the limit for him.”
McCown found Anderson six plays into the game, “when I took my pre-snap read and I saw the coverage and I was confident the coverage wouldn’t work,” Anderson said.
What Anderson saw was Titans cornerback Logan Ryan ceding the inside route and employing a bail technique to beat him downfield. It could have worked against anyone slower than Anderson, who turned on the jets and beat not only Ryan but safety Kevin Byard. He finished it off with a smooth catch over his left shoulder, and the Jets scored shortly thereafter.
“I played against him last year because he came from the Patriots, so I think he’s familiar with my speed, so I think that that’s why he bailed,” Anderson said of Ryan. “But I just ran down the field and outran him.”
And there lies Anderson’s strength. He struggled with press coverage throughout training camp but can do significant damage in open space; he did, after all, run a 4.36-second 40 at Pro Day in 2016.
As it stands, anything Anderson gives the Jets is more than they originally expected. His production last year — 42 catches, 587 yards and two touchdowns — was a bonus from a player whose thin frame and perceived lack of focus made all 32 teams pass on him in 2016.
“Hopefully it’s a big weapon,” coach Todd Bowles said of Anderson’s speed. “He caught one [Saturday], and that’s a good start for him. He’s just got to continue to get better week by week.”