For all the talk about the Washington Redskins improved defensive line, there is one player who doesn’t get enough credit. That is Anthony Lanier.
When Anthony Lanier came to the Washington Redskins following the 2016 NFL Draft, not much was expected of him. The former Alabama A&M product had been an undrafted free agent, and he hadn’t done a lot as a player to warrant hope that he could turn into a contributor. However, what he did have was a 6-foot-6 frame and solid athleticism. That’s what got him his chance with the Redskins, and since that time, he has done well.
During his rookie year in 2016, Lanier earned a spot on the Redskins 53-man roster. He barely played, logging a lot of inactive statuses early on and playing only 4 percent of the defensive snaps, but he did show flashes of solid ability. Unfortunately, an injury prematurely ended his rookie season. And at that time, there were most questions about his ability than there were answers.
Though Lanier possessed a strong and athletic frame, his lack of production and inability to earn a role on a weak defensive line was questioned during the 2017 offseason. It was assumed that he would get a chance to prove himself for another season, but if another defensive prospect pushed him enough, his roster spot could have been in jeopardy. Or so was thought.
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However, Lanier came ready for battle in 2017 and made it clear that he belonged on the defensive line. He outworked veteran free agent signee Terrell McClain and by midway through the season, he had earned a role as the fifth defensive lineman. And is this role, he was often used as a situational pass rusher.
In his new role, Lanier earned nearly 31 percent of the defensive snaps, and that amount of playing time ranked fourth among the defensive linemen. Of course, there were a lot of injuries to other players that had an impact on that number, but still, Lanier put forth a quality season.
As the year went along, Lanier continued to improve, and he earned more playing time. He started to be consistently active in Week 7. From that time through the end of the season, he logged at least 36 percent of the defensive snaps in every game, and even had one performance that saw him serve as a primary starter.
From Weeks 10 to 14, Lanier racked up five sacks in five games. He was an athletic force and was able to use strength and speed to get into the backfield. He did well to disengage from blockers by using strong hand movements, and he also used quick-twitch athleticism to shoot gaps and get into the backfield. And on top of all this, he demonstrated good pursuit and never gave up on plays.
Despite this solid performance in 2018, Lanier has largely fallen under the radar. There is a good reason for that, but it’s not one that should entirely overshadow Lanier.