Carolina Panthers WR Robby Anderson no longer just a deep threat
Robby Anderson is more than just a one-trick-pony.
Count the Carolina Panthers receiver as the latest in a line of players to get a post-Adam Gase boost to his career. Through five games, Anderson has proven he’s more than just a deep threat.
“I know he’s had this moniker of being a deep guy only,” Carolina coach Matt Rhule said, via ESPN. “But he has a unique ability to track the ball. He’s courageous to catch the ball underneath. His catch-and-run skills are outstanding.”
Rhule coached Anderson at Temple. Knowing the wideout’s background likely helped the Panthers unlock the talent that had been hiding in plain sight.
Anderson has generated 100-plus receiving yards in three of five games this season and is one of only three players with five or more catches in each of his tilts, joining DeAndre Hopkins and Cowboys rookie CeeDee Lamb. Anderson’s 36 receptions set the franchise record for most by a player in the first five games of a single season (prior mark: Christian McCaffrey’s 34, in 2018). He needs five more Sunday against the Chicago Bears to break McCaffrey’s record through six games
It’s not just that Anderson is putting up numbers — he’s had good spells with the Jets — it’s how he’s dicing up defenses. It’s not just 9-routes and deep shots like his days in New York. No, Anderson is rounding out skillset, showing the ability to snap off a route with the defender fears his deep speed. He’s killing defenses on slants and plays over the middle. And he’s eating up yards after the catch in the Panthers’ precision offense.
“It was always in him,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “Maybe it was the system that he was in. You know how this league works. When you’re labeled one way, that travels with you.”
Count that as a subtle jab to how the Jets pigeon-holed Anderson and stunted the growth of a flowering tree.
Sure, five games are a small sample size, but Anderson is showing he can become the player everyone wanted Ted Ginn Jr. to be but never grew into: More than just a speedy deep threat.
Anderson ranks third among wideouts with 36 catches entering Week 6, is fourth in yards at 489 and first among WRs in YAC with 229.
The Panthers are utilizing defenses fear of Anderson scorching them to their benefit. More than half of his routes this season have been at a maximum depth of fewer than 10 yards, per ESPN. Anderson has been targeted 32 times on short to intermediate passes (catching 27). He had 41 such targets all of last season (31 catches).
Anderson has a catch rate of 78.3, per Next Gen Stats. In his previous four years in NY, he never had a catch rate above 55.3 (2017).
The 27-year-old’s improved play can be attributed partly to the coaching staff utilizing the playmaker in various roles, Anderson for taking advantage of opportunities, and Bridgewater for trusting the wideout and helping him grow.
After the QB and WR signed in Carolina this offseason, they got right to work building chemistry.
“He really took pride in just wanting to run routes,” Bridgewater said. “For the most part during the offseason, I had him in the slot running routes … to learn how to play at a slower speed.”
Anderson credits Bridgewater with helping cultivate his improved play in Carolina.
“That’s a huge impact,” Anderson said of his new QB. “Him having that trust in me and him understanding and wanting to take time to teach me … it helped my game a lot.”
With Anderson and Bridgewater clicking, the Panthers have been one of the best stories of the young 2020 season. Ensuring that freshness doesn’t become stale as the weather cools is Rhule’s No. 1 goal.
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