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The Redskins Are Looking Forward To Getting Ryan Anderson More Involved On Defense

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Ask anyone on the Redskins' roster or coaching staff where they think Ryan Anderson will play next year, and there's a good chance you'll get a few different answers. 

One thing they will likely agree upon, though, is that the former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide has an excess of talent. That's why Jonathan Allen said on The Kevin Sheehan Show in May that he feels Anderson is set to have a big year.

"I genuinely believe it," Allen said. "He's been working hard...and I really think with this scheme, it's really going to highlight his attributes and his skillset. I think Ryan Anderson is going to have a really standout year for us."

Before Anderson can have that kind of impact, the team needs to find the right spot for him, and that's something his coaches have had on their minds for some time now.

"Ryan Anderson is a guy we obviously have to find a home for," said head coach Ron Rivera. "We have to find how we can use Ryan with his particular skillset."

A second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Anderson went his first two seasons without much production on defense, although he was a regular special teams contributor. He even occasionally appeared on offense as a fullback in goal line situations just so he could get on the field.

Coincidentally, Anderson got his first-career start during Rivera's last game as the Carolina Panthers head coach in Week 13 last year. He recorded six tackles, tying a career-high that he set the previous week, to go with a quarterback hit while playing in 53% of the defensive snaps -- the most he had ever played in an NFL game up to that point.

Two weeks later, Anderson was back in the starting lineup against the Philadelphia Eagles with Ryan Kerrigan landing on Injured Reserve, and he stood out once again with two sacks, five tackles and three forced fumbles. His coaches started to notice the strides Anderson was making, and he went on to start in the final two games of the season.

"What an impressive game he had [against Philadelphia]. His play on the edge has vastly improved," said then-interim head coach Bill Callahan. "I think he stepped up tremendously ... and I can't say enough about his makeup."

Anderson's production might have been a pleasant surprise to some, but not to his teammates who know how hard he works. He finished the season with four sacks, 44 tackles, five forced fumbles and nine quarterback hits -- all career-highs -- but Landon Collins, who has known Anderson since their years together at Alabama, believed his stats should have been higher.

"Man, he's been doing it all year. I think he should have had about 10 sacks on the year," Collins said after the Eagles game. "That's what I expect from him. I'm happy for him, too."

In last year's 3-4 defense, Anderson mostly played as an outside linebacker, but there is a chance that role could change in Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio's new 4-3 scheme. With a 4.78-second 40-yard dash time, Anderson has plenty of speed. But he was also fifth on the team in sacks last year, so he has the versatility that Rivera and Del Rio look for in their players.

"We're excited about him getting more opportunities," Del Rio said. "Looking at the film, he did some nice things. So yeah, we're looking forward to getting Ryan involved."

Pass rushing abilities aside, it's likely that Anderson will remain at linebacker in the new system. That puts him in the mix with Cole Holcomb, Thomas Davis Sr., Jon Bostic and six other players who will be battling for playing time.

If Allen were in charge of where to place Anderson, it would be at strongside linebacker, but he could also see him fitting in on the weak side as well. Like every other position with depth on the team, Del Rio anticipates that the linebacker rotation will sort itself out in time.

"We're going to try and get everyone involved," he said. "Obviously there will be some fierce competition for playing time and roles once we get started in camp."

Anderson likes referring to himself as a billy goat, a bulldog and a ram because of how hard he likes to hit during practice. That's what former tight end Garrett Hudson, who had a brief stint with the Redskins in 2018, said on the Redskins Brawl podcast June 18. Hudson always appreciated Anderson's mentality, and he thinks his former teammate can add value if the coaching staff can find the right role for him.

Although he doesn't have a defined role yet, his coaches are not worried. He's shown enough to convince them he has earned a chance to fight for a spot in the new era of Redskins football.

And once that happens, they seem confident he is going to thrive.

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