Henry Anderson doesn’t carry the weight of the New York Jets’ other signings, but he can be the start of a defensive revolution.
With great financial power came great responsibility. The New York Jets entered a crucial offseason with plenty of free agency funds. Attached to their $100-million pocketbook of cap space was the caveat of over 30 free agents from their most recent roster.
On paper, there may not be much consternation over losing members of a 4-12 squad. But included in the impending departures were, and still, are plenty of silver linings. For example, a pair of Pro Bowlers were on that list, but Jason Myers and Andre Roberts each found new homes. In better news, the Jets were able to retain defenders Darryl Roberts and Neville Hewitt, each of whom stepped it up when injuries struck the unit last season.
There’s potential that one such signing could end up providing the biggest boost of all to a defense eager to amplify the pressure in 2019. That’d be quite the accomplishment in an offseason that has already netted CJ Mosley, but Henry Anderson has that potential.
Anderson, 27, is still working on fully endearing himself to Jets fans. 2018, after all, was the defensive end’s first season in green and white. But if his metropolitan debut was any indication, opposing quarterbacks may have a new problem to deal with.
Last week, Anderson rejoined the Jets on a three-year, $25.2 million deal. He spoke with reporters on Tuesday afternoon through a conference call and continuously expressed gratefulness to be back in New York on a more permanent basis.
“Ultimately I wanted to be back with the Jets for a number of reasons,” Anderson said in a Tuesday afternoon conference call. “We had some calls from different teams during tampering…I’m definitely glad the Jets made a great offer.”
Anderson entered the league as a third-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2015. He had his opportunities in blue, but could never get into a consistent rhythm thanks to a recurring injury problem. Over three seasons, Anderson did not play a full 16-game slate, missing a total of 19 games entirely.
With one year left on his original contract, Anderson was dealt to the Jets for a seventh-round draft pick. In addition to his injury history, incoming defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus somewhat cleaned house in preparation for a transition to a 4-3 defense. For example, veteran Johnathan Hankins was likewise let go.
Anderson responded to the trade with career-best numbers. In addition to shattering his participation record, he earned a career-high 35 tackles, including seven sacks. Double-teams were common, but Anderson found his way into the backfield. His ultimate breakout came in December visit from the Houston Texans, in which Anderson sacked the elusive Deshaun Watson three times.
One week earlier, Anderson could’ve seen a strong season go for naught. During a blocked field in a win over the Buffalo Bills, Anderson laid down a cheap shot hit on kicker Steven Hauschka during the run back. No penalty was called, though a fine would follow.
The quick response, one that was a perfectly legal stifling of Watson, showcased Anderson’s resiliency and truly began to convince the Jets he could become a long-term option on the line.
“I felt like I did some things pretty well, but there’s still a lot of things that I want to improve on coming into this year,” Anderson said in a 2018 reflection. “Hopefully with the trust that the coaching staff and front office put in me, I can go out and build on my success from last year.”
With the purging of the Jets’ coaching staff giving way to a new defensive boss, deja vu nearly played itself out. Gregg Williams has taken his defensive roadshow to New Jersey, one that is headlined by a 4-3 package. A year ago, such a defensive transformation was a reason to bid Anderson farewell.
Now, it’s one of the biggest reasons he’s excited to stay.
New head coach Adam Gase has expressed a desire to remain in a 3-4 base, though time will tell if Williams sticks to that plan. Either way, the tutelage of Williams is a challenge Anderson is very much looking forward to.
“I know he’s got a reputation for putting guys in positions to succeed,” Anderson said of Williams. “I’m expecting him to show a lot of different looks. I’m sure it’s going to be a fun defense to play in.”
Anderson did admit he was “a little worried” when the subject of a transition arose, but 2018 gave him the confidence necessary to take on a new challenge.
“Once I talked to some of the coaches and realized what the scheme would entail and how they run their defense, it made a little bit more sense to me.”
Excitement has certainly been the theme of the newest Jets’ first statements. Anderson can continue to fuel that feeling with the assurance of a new home, a place to call his own for the next three seasons.