In the sixth round, the Bengals drafted both Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson 30 picks apart from one another. At first glance, it appeared that Williams may have been selected as the backup and eventual replacement for Giovani Bernard. Like Bernard, Williams is a good rusher, but an excellent pass catcher and a great pass protection.
Conversely, Anderson is more in Joe Mixon’s mold. He is best as a rusher but has shown some ability as a receiver.
Interestingly enough, Anderson’s skills as a receiver made him stand out in his first NFL game. The Bengals’ issues along the offensive line were evident as the team rushed for a mere 29 yards. Anderson led the team in rushing with 7 yards, and it took him 8 carries to get to that mark.
Regardless, his ability to turn short passes into big gains was impressive. Anderson had four receptions for 51 yards, the majority of which came on these these receptions.
In this first clip, Anderson releases immediately to the flat. The ball is thrown behind him, and he makes a great adjustment to make the catch. This ball placement actually helps him as the linebacker flies past him to the outside. Anderson turns up field and gradually fades to the sideline, avoiding the pursuit. He turned a pass that was completed behind the line of scrimmage into a 12-yard gain.
Anderson is not the primary read in the next clip, but after going through his progression, rookie quarterback Ryan Finley throws the ball to Anderson on the check down. After catching the ball, he gets a good block from Cody Core and jukes making Giants linebacker Nathan Stupar look foolish. Anderson continues upfield and gains 17 yards after picking up additional blocks from Cethan Carter and Alex Erickson.
A few plays later, Finley hit Anderson in the flat once again. Anderson ducked, breaking the tackle attempt of Stupar. He turned up the sideline and broke another tackle attempt from cornerback Henre’ Toliver on his way to an 18-yard gain.
This dude is a machine in the pass game pic.twitter.com/rl8LZlPcS4— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) August 23, 2019
For teams who struggle to run the ball successfully, utilizing running backs in the passing game can become a viable extension of (and therefore, alternative to) the running game. Hopefully the Bengals’ run blocking improves dramatically as the year progresses, but to have a weapon like Anderson to create yards on his own will become valuable either way.
These three plays accounted for 47 yards despite the fact that all three were completed close to the line of scrimmage. Anderson has demonstrated the ability to make the first guy miss and RAC up (run after catch) additional yards once he gets the ball in his hands.