Last year, third round defensive end Henry Anderson was a welcome addition. He started the first nine games of the season before tearing his ACL, playing very well and emerging as one of the team’s best defensive players. Owner Jim Irsay this offseason mentioned Anderson in the same sentence as Andrew Luck as “arguably” the Colts’ two best players.
Anderson is still recovering from that torn ACL and so he hasn’t been able to practice with the Colts yet this offseason or training camp, meaning new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino hasn’t been able to get an up-close view of the defensive lineman yet. But he’s watched Anderson on tape, and he shared his thoughts on the defensive lineman when speaking with the media on Wednesday.
“Henry jumps off the tape at you, first of all, because he’s effort-filled,” Monachino said. “He’s an effort-filled tough guy, and he plays with a high football IQ all the time. [It’s] hard to trick Henry Anderson. You see a guy that is going to at some point become a really, really good player in this league. I think that he’s already a fine player and he’s going to continue to improve with repetition and with time and with added strength and with being completely healthy, all of those things. But what you saw the first time I turned the tape on is just a guy with very high football character, tough, rugged, smart, effort-filled. Those are the things that you look for.”
Last year, Anderson’s stats didn’t jump off the page at you, but his play really jumped off the tape. He recorded 31 tackles, a sack, and two passes defensed in nine starts, but he had a huge impact on the defense up front, particularly in the run game. The Colts will rely heavily on him to return to form this year and, as Monachino alluded to, continue to get better, but first he needs to get on the field. The good news? Anderson is doing really well in that regard.
He’s been running sprints and working out on side fields during camp, and he looks good. Though he’s still on the PUP list, he’s told us that his knee feels “awesome” and we’ve continually heard that he’s ahead in his recovery. “He is moving great, now it’s just a matter of when do you make that decision to put him into some live action and actually have him take on a double team,” head coach Chuck Pagano said yesterday. “He is going to feel great at some point and they are going to clear him and make him ready for play. But again, confidence-wise, they all, when playing that position, until you take on that double team and feel the weight of 650-700 pounds leaning on you, you really don’t know.”
The hope is to have Anderson back by the beginning of the regular season, and at that point they’ll be getting one of their best defensive players back. He’ll then get to work with his new defensive coordinator, and Ted Monachino thinks Anderson can continue to develop into “a really, really good player.”