Ryan Anderson had an average rookie season at best, but the Washington Redskins are expecting him to make a big jump between years one and two. Could he end up earning a role in the defense by becoming a hybrid player?
When the Redskins spent a second round pick on Ryan Anderson in the 2017 NFL Draft, the selection was somewhat of a surprise. The team had been linked to Anderson, but the Alabama product was considered more of a third or fourth round prospect, not a second rounder. Still, the team selected Anderson to provide depth to their pass rush.
In his rookie season, Anderson very much looked the part of a rookie. He played about 17 percent of the defensive snaps, and he didn’t particularly look like a great pass rusher. That said, it’s far too early to judge him based on one season, and it’s possible that he could improve with a year of experience under his belt.
There’s only one problem with that. It’s going to be difficult for Anderson to find more playing time with the team. They still have a stellar starting edge duo of Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan. While the team did lose Trent Murphy to free agency and Junior Galette remains unsigned, the front office brought in Pernell McPhee on a cheap contract. McPhee will perfectly fill in for Galette, and that will make Anderson the No. 4 edge rusher for the second straight year (as Murphy didn’t play last year).
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To earn more playing time, Anderson is going to have to find a way to impact the game. And one way to do that may be by becoming a hybrid player. Per NBC Sports Washington’s Peter Hailey, Anderson did work out with the defensive linemen for part of an open OTA session, and here’s what he said about it.
"Maybe this is nothing, maybe it’s something, and in case it’s the latter, I’m going to mention it so I can say I mentioned it: While special teams took over the field to work on various special teams things, Jim Tomsula gathered D-linemen to get in a little extra work on the sideline. Also called over to join Tomsula’s group: Ryan Anderson. No other linebacker took part, for what it’s worth."
It’s possible that this could just be experimental. But, it’s also possible that the Redskins may look to play Anderson on the line a bit more in 2018. And that would be a sensible move in certain packages.
As a player, the main skill that Anderson possesses is his strength. He is a well-built outside linebacker who uses his strength to collapse the pocket from the outside. His marginal athleticism is hidden by the fact that he can overpower just about anybody. That could make him an intriguing fit as a situational interior rusher from the 3-4 end position. This was a role that Murphy had played at times in the past. And while Murphy is four inches taller than Anderson, he’s only six pounds heavier.
If Anderson can prove that he can collapse the pocket from the inside, that will afford him an opportunity to see the field more. The Redskins already have some excellent looking interior rushers in Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis, but given how much Jim Tomsula likes to rotate his defensive linemen, having multiple role players can never hurt. Plus, if Anderson can play linebacker and end, the Redskins might not have to carry an extra body on the defensive line, as Anderson could play the position in a pinch.
Becoming a hybrid player would be a smart move by Anderson. If he were to primarily play linebacker, he probably would only see the field for 17 percent of the defensive snaps again. If he wants a chance to see that number increase, playing multiple roles could help him out.
For now, this is just something to watch. But it could help the Redskins a lot. It will be intriguing to see what their plans are for Anderson. He has upside, and they may be able to tap into it by using his strength.