FOXBORO, Mass. — Henry Anderson was a relative afterthought when the Patriots put a bow on their famed 2021 free agency class. Signed away from the New York Jets on a two-year deal, Anderson was viewed as depth defensive lineman.
But his first season in New England was one to forget. Anderson barely made the initial roster after an iffy training camp, and he missed the rest of the campaign after suffering a torn pectoral muscle during the Week 4 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Considering Anderson was buried on the depth chart in 2021 and didn’t look all that great when actually on the field, expectations for the 30-year-old were low entering training camp.
However, the reality is that Anderson was a good, versatile player with both the Indianapolis Colts, who used a third-round pick on him in 2015, and the Jets. He always has graded well as a run defender — the Patriots could’ve used more of that last season — and is a decent pass-rusher, too.
Now healthy, Anderson is resembling the player who the Patriots thought they were getting a year ago.
Anderson has been consistently impactful since the start of training camp. He gave Cole Strange fits on Monday during the rookie’s first NFL padded practice, drawing multiple holds from New England’s presumed starting left guard. And on Tuesday, Anderson registered a pressure and a tipped ball against quarterback Mac Jones. He also toasted Yasir Durant during 1-on-1 linemen drills.
Anderson also stands out. At 6-foot-6, he’s tied with Andrew Stueber for the third-tallest Patriot, behind Trent Brown (6-foot-8) and Durant (6-foot-7).
Most importantly, Anderson is healthy.
“Henry was a full participant in the offseason program,” head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday morning. “He did everything from Day 1: all the lifting, all the running, all the drills and everything. So, I think that’s all done with.”
Anderson, who described himself as back to 100%, is thrilled to be back on the field.
“It feels great,” he said after Tuesday’s practice. “Getting hurt always sucks — it makes you realize how much you love the game. So, being back out there, just being with all the guys again, it’s awesome.”
Anderson’s versatility seems like a perfect fit for the Patriots. That’s why his struggles and lack of usage last year puzzled so many. And while Anderson’s role on this season’s team remains to be seen, he’s making it a point to prove his value.
“I’ve kinda been like that everywhere,” Anderson said of his ability to play multiple positions. “A lot of teams, you’ve got those outside linebacker types, and then you’ve got the big D-tackle types. So … I just try to be a dude that you can count on, really put anywhere on the line of scrimmage.
“Like, whether it’s over the center or over the tackle or tight end. I try to focus on good technique, know the defense really well, know every position so that, if the coaches need someone to go out there, they know that I know what to do and I can execute at a high level.”
Again, Anderson has a lot to prove after the way last season went. But he’s off to a great start and will be a player to keep an eye on once preseason games start.
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