Slimmer Henry Anderson ready to find place in new Colts defense
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Henry Anderson isn’t entirely certain what lies ahead.
Not with a new head coach, new defensive coordinator and new position coach.
And did we mention new scheme?
It’s fitting hard hats, assorted excavation equipment and makeshift meeting rooms greeted Anderson and the Indianapolis Colts as they reported Monday for the start of their offseason workouts.
The appropriate buzzwords: under construction.
That includes a slimmed-down Anderson. In preparation for what’s to come – a transition from Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 under first-time head coach Frank Reich and first-time coordinator Matt Eberflus – the 2015 third-round draft pick is “about 15-20 pounds lighter’’ than his listed 301 pounds of a year ago.
“We switched the scheme up a little bit so I have to be a little bit quicker and faster,’’ Anderson said. “I definitely just feel like I’m moving a lot better because obviously not carrying as much weight so you can kind of move around and be a little more agile.
“I definitely feel good and am excited to get back on the field for sure.’’
Similar to the muddled landscape on West 56th Street, the defense – and Anderson’s role in it – remains a work in progress. Players have been given the nuts and bolts of the scheme, but not how they all fit together.
This much everyone understands: Eberflus won’t be sitting back and reacting to whatever an offense does. That’s especially true with the defensive front.
“We are not a 2-gap team any more,’’ general manager Chris Ballard explained at the recent owners’ meetings. “We are going to be a single-gap team, up field and disruptive. We want guys that can get off the ball and be disruptive.
“It’s predicated off effort, effort to the ball every play. That’s how you create turnovers. When you get 11 players running to the ball, every play, that’s how good things are going to happen.’’
Ballard and Reich envision the defense resembling – at least in approach – the units that were instrumental in the Colts’ ultra-successful decade of the early 2000s. They were fast, athletic, aggressive, relentless.
Anderson’s eyes lit up as he considered what’s to come.
“Yeah, it’s going to be fun,’’ he said. “It sounds like it’s a more attacking front. A lot more penetration and just getting up field. As a defensive lineman, you love to hear that.’’
The group includes Jabaal Sheard, Al Woods, Grover Steward and Hassan Ridgeway.
“At the snap of the ball,’’ Anderson said, “you’re just freaking going. It’s not as much sitting back and waiting. You’re just going and trying to disrupt.
“It’s exciting to hear the coaches talk about it. I wish I knew how it’s going to be playing the defense, but I really haven’t played it before.’’
Anderson worked in a 3-4 scheme at Stanford, and during his first three seasons with the Colts during which he started 19 of 29 games while battling an assortment of injuries. He has gained medical clearance for all on-field activities after suffering a freaky and season-ending fractured larynx in week 9 last season against Houston.
Now, a significant and yet-to-be determined role modification.
Anderson slimmed down a bit with the expectation of being an ‘edge’’ player in the base defense. He anticipates moving inside and representing a pass-rush threat on passing downs. He generated two of his three career sacks last season.
“We didn’t really get into the details of that,’’ Anderson said. “It was more just kind of talking about the scheme in general, so we’ll see where that goes.’’
Anderson: hungry man
Credit a new diet for Anderson checking in at a more appropriate weight for the new scheme. He adhered to it – at least most of the time – while working out in Atlanta.
“I was on a meal plan that our nutritionist and a few of our strength coaches set up for me,’’ Anderson said. “I was eating pretty healthy, which was hard.’’
That was especially true because Anderson enjoyed frequenting some of Atlanta’s finer eateries.
“I would always just go and crush in Atlanta,’’ he said with a smile. “I was still doing like one cheat meal a week, which I would eat a ton. But the rest of the time I was eating just like chicken or turkey or fish, which was so cool.’’
His expression indicated otherwise.
And about that one cheat meal? Anderson got his money’s worth at his favorite restaurant: Taqueria del Sol.
“My meal there was like five fried chicken tacos and then three beef brisket enchiladas,’’ he said. “And then I would usually have like a pulled pork taco and then I would always get dessert after that too which I don’t want to talk about because it was embarrassing.
“Yeah, I would eat a lot. The rest of the week was not as much fun.’’