A big part of building an NFL team is taking calculated risk.
No move in the NFL is a sure thing, as much as some of us would like to believe they are. The Bengals took one in the sixth round in this past draft when they added Rodney Anderson to their running back group, but that risk could be paying off sooner than everyone expected.
It was originally thought that Anderson was going to miss most, if not all of the 2019 season. He suffered an ACL injury in 2018 at Oklahoma. It obviously had a huge impact on his draft stock.
Based on talent alone, he was widely considered one of the best running backs in the draft, but his injury history was hard to ignore, as 2017 was his only completely healthy season.
One of the people who is happiest about Anderson’s early return is the Bengals’ running backs’ coach Jemal Singleton.
“He has done a great job of staying engaged with everything we’re doing,” Singleton told Jay Morrison of the Athletic. “That’s one thing I’ve really liked about it. It’s easy for a guy who’s not practicing, who’s injured, to kind of not pay attention as much. But he’s been very involved in meetings, really studies hard and we get little walk-throughs in out here when we can. He’s doing all that stuff well. But until he steps on the field in practices, we really won’t know.
“It’s been a while since he played football. We knew he had the injury, but the training staff has done a great job to try to get him healthy and get him to a spot where he can start participating in activities. Really it’s going to be his body that tells him when he’s ready to go. And when he is, we’ll be able to answer a lot more questions.”
Having Anderson back would be a huge lift for the running back group. They would be four deep at that point, and it also gives him a great shot to develop into an NFL back rather than wait an entire season.
The injury question may always be there with Anderson, but when he is healthy it is hard to argue with his talent. In 2017, he topped 1,000 rushing yards with 13 touchdowns. In an era where teams are looking to keep lead ball carriers fresher longer into the season and extend their career by supplementing some of their carries to backups, Anderson could be a valuable backup who has a handful of touches a game.
We shouldn’t be surprised if the Bengals take their time taking Anderson off the PUP list, because once he is removed from the list and practices, he can’t be put back on it. It still sound like they are getting to the point where the doctors and player are pretty confident in getting back out there.
At the end of the day, Anderson returning to the lineup doesn’t shift the needle too much overall for the Bengals in 2019. They have a deep running back group led by Joe Mixon and Giovanni Bernard. Fellow rookie, Trayveon Williams, has also been getting plenty of snaps during training camp.
This is just bigger news for the long-term prospects of Anderson developing into someone who can be a backup in a few seasons. It is just nice that he is afforded the opportunity to do that at his own pace. Fans should be looking forward to seeing him out there.