When Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene left Cincinnati via free agency, a new offseason goal was created: add defensive line depth. Rucker and Fanene played that role perfectly during their stay, playing exceptionally within a seven and eight-man rotation and leaving a noticeable void with their departure. The success steming from that depth hopes to be replicated in 2012 and with the signing of free agent Jamaal Anderson and Derrick Harvey, hopefully that goal is accomplished.
Jamaal Anderson, 26 years old, never became the elite player Atlanta hoped he would become when they drafted him eighth overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. In fact, Anderson barely developed into even a serviceable player for Atlanta--only 4.5 sacks in four seasons--and was released prior to the 2011 season. In 2011 he played with the Indianapolis Colts, where he showed noticeable improvement in limited time. In 15 games, Anderson started only one, yet managed to compile three sacks.
Has Jamaal Anderson been a disappointment in his short NFL career? Absolutely. He would be the first one to admit it, but he would also say to not count him out yet. What he has working for him is a tremendous intangible--the desire to learn. Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com writes that the education Anderson received during his time in Indianapolis, under the two great instructors of Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, may prove invaluable to the 26 year old defensive end.
When I came out, I was young and I think I had to go through same maturity," Anderson said Saturday from Atlanta when his signing became official. "I'm a fan of this game. I like to watch and I like to learn about it and hopefully it's going to show up on the field...
I watched how [Freeney and Mathis] worked the offensive tackles," Anderson said. "It just wasn't '1-2-3 and boom' and they just did a move. Sometimes they go around the outside. Or they fake it outside or go onside. They're not just great athletes. They use their experience.
Prior to his time with the Colts, Anderson received some other important lessons from another NFL great--Michael Strahan. Hobson writes:
After the 2010 season, Strahan, the former Giant now retired, urged Anderson to lose weight after he bulked up for the run.
"He said he found out he could do the same things at 253 pounds that he could do at 283," Anderson said. "He felt like it makes you quicker and it helps you with your longevity and I think that made a difference for me."
The defensive line was arguably the strength of the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals, finishing as the tenth best run defense and with the fifth most sacks. Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene were very much apart of that success, so Jamaal Anderson will be expected to immediately fill in and contribute. Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer, who coached Anderson for one season in Atlanta, is known for bringing the best out of his players. He worked his magic on Rucker and Fanene, and, considering the defensive end's willingness to learn and improve, he may work it again on Jamaal Anderson.