The New York Jets were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last Sunday following their loss in New Orleans to the Saints. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few surprising bright spots for the five-win team – particularly at the wide receiver position.
Robby Anderson made the Jets’ roster last year as an undrafted free agent, but he’s clearly solidified himself as the team’s No. 1 receiving option. Of course, the Jets (5-9) will have upwards of $80 million in cap space, next season, so there’s definitely room for general manager Mike Maccagnan to add some firepower at the position. But should the Jets stand pat at wide receiver and let the youth develop, at least Gang Green can take solace in knowing they have a diamond in the rough in Anderson.
The former Temple star has been a pleasant surprise, amassing 57 catches, 888 yards, and seven touchdowns this season. He’s hit a plateau lately, but there’s no question the 6-foot-3 wideout is ascending – and that’s been in spite of catching passes from a journeyman quarterback (Josh McCown) and now a guy who has the looks of a career backup (Bryce Petty). Jets’ fans can only wonder and wish what Anderson could do with an elite passer tossing him the ball. New York will likely draft in the top 10 for the third time in four years, so perhaps there’s a chance for that to happen.
But for the time being, Petty is all Anderson has. During McCown’s time, Anderson had a five-game stretch that featured 23 catches for 418 yards and six touchdowns, showing he can thrive with whoever is under center.
He’s closing in on 1,000 receiving yards for the season, but it’ll be a tough task in the remaining two games. It’s no lock considering he’ll be facing two of the best secondaries in the league, beginning Sunday at home against the Los Angeles Chargers, and then the season finale against the New England Patriots. The Los Angeles game could be particularly daunting since the Jets will be playing a Chargers squad that is still fighting for its thinning playoff hopes. Los Angeles is the only NFL team that has yet to allow a 100-yard receiver in any game this season. And overall, the defense is fourth in points allowed, including the third-best pass defense.
If the insertion of Petty has shown anything, though, it’s that Anderson and Petty are attached at the hip and the receiver will get his share of opportunities to raise his stats. Anderson was targeted 12 times in New Orleans, so he could be up for a prime bounce-back game on Sunday.
The white-hot lights of the New York market haven’t proven to be too scorching for Anderson, so he feels confident heading into this matchup. Nothing is too big for the Temple product, especially considering his humble football beginnings to start his professional career. Being undrafted, he worked himself into the offensive rotation, even with the Jets having stalwart vets like Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in the starting lineup. So, trying to crack the 1,000-yard mark won’t be daunting.
Anderson, though, isn’t the only Jet receiver to have an awakening this season. The addition of Jermaine Kearse has the looks of a promising duo for Gang Green. The Jets traded defensive end Sheldon Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks before the start of the season, and in return, they nabbed Kearse and a second-round pick. The budding Kearse was thought to be an afterthought by many, but he’s adjusted nicely in New York, tallying 55 catches for 709 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also one of the more respected leaders in the locker room, bringing even more value.
Gang Green may be out of postseason contention, but at the very least, they’ll head into the offseason feeling confident about the restocked wideout corps.
Gang Green notes:
– Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, who rejoined the Jets last week following a four-game league suspension, was waived Monday by the team. The veteran receiver was given a one-week roster exemption, but that expired at 4 p.m. on Monday. And instead of activating him to the 53-man roster, the Jets simply decided to part ways.
– No Jets players made the official Pro Bowl roster, but rookie safety Jamal Adams and McCown were named third and fifth alternates, respectively, for the AFC.