Flash back to the mid-summer heat of training camp where most Jets fans were thinking, “There’s no way we keep all three, right?”
Three months later, rookie WRs Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake not only hold roster spots but are key contributors on offense. After fighting for playing time in the beginning of the season paired with the loss of Eric Decker (IR/shoulder), each has settled in and found his niche.
“Charone is more of a big body kind of receiver and Jalin is more a nifty guy,” Anderson said. “He’ll make something out of nothing and make some guys miss. Charone is going to make that big body catch. And I bring the speed aspect.”
The triplets, consisting of two undrafted free agents (Anderson, Marshall) and a seventh-round pick (Peake), are riding their first professional seasons hand-in-hand. Consequently, they’ve developed a relationship on and off the field.
“Yeah, we definitely have a bond. Being together since minicamp, that’s a long time,” Peake said. “And being together all day and extra meetings with each other. We’ve built a great bond and we’re trying to come together and make a difference here.”
“I mean definitely because we all came in at the same time,” Anderson said. “We’ve all been on this journey and went through this process together. We just see the growth between each other and we feel like, and I know our coaches and many people in the building look at us as the future of the position.”
Their paths since becoming members of the Jets have been slightly different, but they’ve all led to the same place — the gridiron. Anderson has been most productive of the three, starting on the outside opposite six-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall, who is also his locker neighbor. The Temple product has racked up 22 catches for 270 yards, which ranks third on the team.
Anderson’s play and determination have caught the eye of offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who praised him in last week’s media availability, saying Anderson improves each week. The 6’3”, 190-pounder has registered at least 40 yards in three of the last four games and has tallied at least three catches in six straight weeks. His best performance came in Week 10 against the Rams when he hauled in a 52-yard catch down the visitors’ sideline which led to a Bilal Powell touchdown to finish a 99-yard drive — the Green & White’s first 99-yard drive since 1995 and their fourth since 1963. Anderson finished the day with 69 yards on three catches.
“I’ve just been feeling comfortable out there,” Anderson said. “I was talking to my uncle the other day and I was telling him the game is starting to feel like practice, it’s not overwhelming. It’s slowing down for me and I feel natural out there. I feel like I belong and it feels good.”
Take a moment to think about this: The game is slowing down for someone that runs a 4.34 40.
Even though Anderson has made the biggest impact offensively, his rookie counterparts have one thing that he doesn’t — a touchdown. Anderson almost punched in a 40-yard catch-and-run against the Dolphins in Week 9, but he was ruled down by contact upon review.
The three pups have their fair share of similarities and differences when comparing seasons, but one constant is their individual learning curve of how to become successful in the NFL.
“I became smarter about the game, where to be at the right time with different defenses and stuff they run,” said Marshall, who is also the team’s No. 1 punt returner. “I have to get open no matter what the situation is and I think I’ve become better at that. I’m growing gradually each day.”
“I think it’s just a matter of being patient,” said Peake, another key contributor on special teams. “The first couple games I didn’t really play at all. I know it’s a long season and guys go down. I felt like I’ve stepped into my role now and took advantage of my opportunities.”
Anderson credits Brandon Marshall and WRs coach Karl Dorrell with taking him “to another level.”
“At this level, everyone is talented, but it’s what you know,” Anderson said. “And I’ve still only learned a small percentage, this is still my rookie season and it’s not even over. From where I was and where the game was to me from my approach, Brandon’s just given me a real perspective. He was once a rookie receiver in my shoes with talent, but I see that it’s not just the talent, it’s the knowledge that makes you a great player.”
With the back third of the season on deck following the bye week, the three share a common goal before putting a bow on their first year in the league.
“Win. That’s the most important thing to me. Win and help the team win any way possible,” Anderson said. “I know me making catches, big plays and third-down catches is going to help the team so that’s all I’m worried about — finishing strong.”
“I think it’s just a matter of helping the team to get wins,” Peake said. “I’ll put my head and cut a D-lineman, whatever I have to do. I just want to help the most.”
“I hope to establish myself as a playmaker for this team and go on a run to potentially make the playoffs,” Marshall said. “There’s a lot of stuff that we can do to get on the right track and hopefully I can help spark it.”