350 days ago, Oklahoma hosted UCLA in a Week 2 non-conference matchup. Running back Rodney Anderson was coming off a 100-yard, two-touchdown game the week earlier against Florida Atlantic. He carried the ball five times in that game.
Anderson had just six carries against UCLA, but he would’ve had more had his right ACL not tear mid-game.
This wasn’t supposed to happen again. Anderson missed nearly all of his freshman season with a broken leg and then missed all of his sophomore season with a broken bone in his neck. Two years went by before the four-star tailback actually got a chance to pop off at the collegiate level, and he sure as Hell did. Anderson’s 2017 season resulted in 1,161 yards, 13 touchdowns, and a massive amount of momentum entering 2018.
The UCLA game was the final straw for Anderson and ended up being his last game in a Sooners uniform. With first-round talent and an injury history covered with red flags, everyone knew Anderson would fall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Perhaps the Bengals knew this as well, but were still happily surprised he was still available to draft with the 211th overall pick.
One ACL surgery, several months of rehab and 349 days later, Anderson returned to the football field. Not the rehab field, not the practice field. The real gridiron. He was finally healthy, and healthy is about as weak of a superlative you could give for Anderson after his performance last night against the Giants.
Because it wouldn’t be right for a Bengals running back to put up respectable rushing numbers, Anderson did his dirty work in the passing game. Anderson reeled in four receptions for 51 yards. The play shown above went for 17, the play below went for 18.
The commonalities between the two plays: elusiveness and yards after contact.
Per The Sports Info Solutions Football Rookie Handbook 2019, Anderson averaged 3.9 yards after contact per rush in his 2017 campaign. Accounting for his 188 attempts, over 700 of Anderson’s 1,161 rushing yards in 2017 came after contact. Couple that with the 26 broken tackles SIS recorded for him that same season, you get the picture: Anderson’s a hassle to bring down. The Giants knew this after Anderson’s first carry.
It was hard for Anderson to get anything else going on the ground running behind the Bengals’ second-string offensive line. Seven yards on eight carries certainly doesn’t scream efficiency.
But those numbers don’t matter for Anderson right now. Here’s one that does though: 12. Anderson hasn’t touched the ball 12 times in a single game in—here’s another number—600 days. That day he ran the ball 26 times, for over 200 yards, in the Rose Bowl of all games.
That’s the Rodney Anderson the Bengals hope they have. This is always dangerous to say...but if he can stay healthy, their hopes may become a reality.