The Cincinnati Bengals’ secondary underwent a major shakeup this offseason, highlighted by the departures of long-time starting safeties Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell.
That led to the Bengals signing veteran Nick Scott and spending a third-round pick on Alabama safety Jordan Battle, both of whom are expected to get most of the safety snaps alongside 2022 first-round pick Dax Hill.
However, one name that wasn’t even a lock to make the roster is now fighting for the right to also get meaningful reps on gamedays.
That man is none other than Tycen Anderson, who is looking to rebound from a lost rookie season due to injury.
Hometown: Toledo, OH
Experience: 1 year
Anderson is in the second year of his rookie contract and has a salary cap charge this year of $826,521.
It has not been an easy road for Tycen Anderson.
The Cincinnati Bengals selected Anderson, a safety out of Toledo, in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. In his first preseason game, Anderson suffered a hamstring injury that caused him to miss his entire rookie season. But now that he has had a year to prepare, he is ready for the next step.
“Last year was just crazy,” Anderson said recently. “I didn’t want to be behind because I didn’t take advantage of those times I wasn’t playing or practicing. I wanted to take advantage of every moment in the building. Studying plays, meeting with the DBs, trying to make myself better.”
Anderson was back in the starting lineup in Week 1 of the preseason against the Green Bay Packers. He responded with three tackles and two interceptions, including a pick-6 that pulled the Bengals within a point at 14-13. Cincinnati would go on to lose the game, 36-19, but Anderson’s efforts clearly stood out.
Tycen Anderson pick 6 from robber. Fantastic play to read out what's happening in front of him and jump this. pic.twitter.com/nf8cfwIj85— mike (@bengals_sans) August 14, 2023
“A lot of hard work went to get to this moment here, and I’m just blessed to be in this position,” Anderson said after the game. “A lot of things that you guys didn’t see that I was going through last year, just blessed to be with this group of guys and happy to be able to make those plays when the ball comes my way.”
His teammates noticed.
“I saw how much work he put in last year, especially during this offseason, so I’m over the moon for him,” said Bengals’ defensive tackle Jeff Gunter. “I’m rooting for him, and I hope he continues to work. Staying the course and working without playing time and the glory that comes with it can be a difficult thing to do for many. Anderson didn’t go off track. He kept his head down and continued to study, get stronger, and work with the hope of having a productive 2023 season. He started the year with a bang.”
Veteran safety Mike Thomas, who is in his ninth year in the NFL and is the Bengals’ second-most experienced player on the roster, could barely hold back the emotion as he spoke of his young teammate.
“I’ve been there,” Thomas said. “I know what it’s like having this game pretty much taken from you because it’s outside of your control if you’re going to play, if you can come back, especially dealing with an injury.”
Thomas suffered his own season-ending injury during the 2020 season as a member of the Houston Texans. So he knows the frustration first-hand.
“For the work he put in to get to this moment tonight, all I’ve ever told Tycen was, ‘When you get your opportunity, take advantage of it’, Thomas said. “Try to make that ‘I’m here’ moment. Go make the play. Don’t make it close, go make the play, leave no doubt. I feel like a proud big brother because I’ve been there, you know what I’m saying? I’ve been there, and that’s what you need. You need plays like that to make it, so I’m excited for him, and I‘m proud.”
Anderson appreciates the support and knows the value of teamwork. He was a three-year captain at the University of Toledo.
“It was just a cool moment,” he said. “Those guys seeing what I went through last year, just the hard work I put in to get to this moment, so it was just cool to be embraced by them, for sure.
“It feels good, just being myself, just playing my game and knowing that those guys are just rooting for me and wanting me to do well and just putting me in positions to be successful.”
While he was not involved in a lot of big plays in college, he did notch two interceptions (none in his final two years), a forced fumble, and 21 pass breakups throughout his career.
Anderson is certainly off to a great start this year and is looking forward to battling for a spot on the 53-man roster. But his ambitions don’t stop there.
“I know if I remain healthy and just take care of my body,” he said, “I know when I do that, and I’m able to play and just fly around out there, the sky’s the limit for myself.”
For his efforts thus far, Anderson was included in Bleacher Reports’ recent article on potential breakout players who’ve shined in the preseason.
But first things first. Anderson needs a good showing in the final week of preseason play to lock up his spot on the regular-season roster.
Roster Odds: 70%
The Bengals kept five safeties last year, in which case Anderson would be a lock to make the Bengals’ roster in 2023. But if the Bengals choose to go with only four safeties, as they did from 2014-2021, he will be in a battle with Michael Thomas for that final spot and figures to be one of, if not the toughest call for the Bengals to make regarding the 53-man roster for Week 1.