Colts DE Henry Anderson poised for impressive second season

Aug 29, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Henry Anderson (96) tackles St. Louis Rams running back Isaiah Pead (24) during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 29, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Henry Anderson (96) tackles St. Louis Rams running back Isaiah Pead (24) during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indianapolis Colts are looking forward to getting one of their most promising rookies from 2015 back on the field after a season ending injury, and based on what we saw from him he should have a big sophomore campaign ahead of him.

Rookie defensive end Henry Anderson saw his season come to an end in the same game as Andrew Luck. Anderson tore his ACL against the Denver Broncos on November 8, the same day as Luck’s season ending kidney injury. The way Anderson had been playing, he was a dark horse candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Losing Anderson wasn’t nearly as devastating as losing Luck for the year, but his abscense left a sizable hole along the defensive line. Anderson was a tone setter for the team’s run defense. His success against the run was a bit surprising considering he was known more for his pass rushing abilities at Stanford.

More from Horseshoe Heroes

Pro Football Focus called Anderson “the most productive lineman in the NCAA” when grading the 2015 NFL Draft. He ranked top five in all of PFF’s signature defensive lineman statistics in 2014 and was considered a steal in the third round.

His numbers don’t really jump off the stat sheet, 31 tackles and a sack last season, but he showed up consistently on the tape and made the most of every single tackle. PFF had him second on their Rookie of the Year list entering Week 9 before his injury.

Anderson is still recovering from his ACL injury and likely won’t be a full participant by the start of training camp in late July. While Anderson claims to be ahead of schedule, there currently isn’t a timetable for him to return to practice. Minicamp practices are currently underway and for now Anderson is just watching.

"“I’m trying to be smart,” Anderson said. “I hate being out there watching. I want to be back and playing as soon as possible. But that’s not always the smartest thing to do. I don’t want to rush it. I don’t want to be out there limping around where I’m able to play but not 100 percent. I think we’ve definitely made the right decision.”"

Provided Anderson returns to full health, the Colts will be looking at a deep and talented defensive line unit. The second-year player is also in a great position to make a big leap this season. PFF believes he will be one of the top 100 players in the NFL next season too.

"2. Henry Anderson, DE, Indianapolis ColtsAs a third-round rookie, Henry Anderson was on pace to make the Top 101 in 2015 had it not been for a season-ending injury in Week 9. At that point of the season, he was a top-10 3-4 defensive end, with six of the nine players ahead of him at the time ultimately making the Top 101. Anderson stood out the most as a playmaker against the run; his 12.0 run-stop percentage was the second-best for 3-4 defensive ends on the season. Even though he was held to one sack on the year, he was the Colts’ most persistent interior rusher, with a 7.1 pass-rushing productivity. More often than not, defensive linemen improve from year one to year two, so one would hope Anderson is healthy and can build upon his rookie success next season. — Nathan Jahnke, @PFF_NateJahnkeKey Stat: Through the first five weeks of 2015, Anderson ranked second among all 3-4 defensive ends in run stops, tackles, and overall run-defense grade."

Anderson excelled at getting opposing quarterbacks off their mark and stopping the ball carrier before they could get very far past the line of scrimmage. Defensive line is typically a position where rookies struggle, especially in a 3-4 scheme. With Anderson being an impact player from Day 1 it stands to reason he’ll be that much better in 2016.

Just over a year ago the Colts defensive line was a mess and gave up approximately all of the rushing yards to New England in the AFC Championship game. Now, this might be the strongest position on the entire roster.

Next: Luck healthy and ready to go

Kendall Langford was a great free agent pickup last season, and played well all year. David Perry wasn’t quite the stud that Anderson was as a rookie, but he started all season and only started to struggle down the stretch, like most other rookies typically do. Couple with rotational players T.Y. McGill, Zach Kerr, and rookie Hassan Ridgeway and the team has a lot of depth at the position.

The Colts might finally get Art Jones on the field as well this season. If he can stay healthy, that would just be a cherry on top of this defensive line sundae.

A strong defensive line in 2016 will go a long way towards making this defense a more formidable unit. If the Colts can put pressure on opponents offensive lines, we’ll see improvements at every level on this side of the ball.