In a year in which he was expected to take a big step forward, outside linebacker Ryan Anderson struggled to break out in his second season with the Redskins.
Playing backup to Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith on the outside again, Anderson missed three of the last four games of the season, nursing a hamstring injury that limited his production. He finished 2018 with 18 total tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, thanks to an uppercut at a crucial juncture during the Redskins’ victory over the Buccaneers.
“I feel like last year was just, ‘control what you can control and not listen to this person and that person,’ and just control what you can do right,” Anderson said. “When your opportunity comes you will be ready, so I feel like that had a lot to do with it. Not playing as much, and then playing and hurting my hamstring, I could have done a lot more to prepare me for that.”
At least in the interim, Anderson will have more responsibility thrust onto him. With Smith signing with the Packers this offseason, Anderson’s in line to take over on the right side of the defense to bookend Kerrigan.
It’s a bittersweet realization for Anderson, who loses a mentor and friend next to him in the locker room, while gaining an opportunity to start and make a bigger push in his third season.
“[Preston] was like a big brother to me, man,” Anderson said. “It’s definitely going to be a little rough, you know, he was always a guy that was there to talk to me and you know just help bring me back down.
“They drafted me and believed in me and put me in a place so I’m just eager to prove to them and myself that I can handle the workload,” Anderson added.
In order to do that, Anderson has focused on slimming down, like most players do in the offseason, hoping to play at 245 pounds, around eight to 10 pounds lighter than last year. To do that, Anderson has been training back in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Alabama’s campus.
“Things are open, the nutrition part is open, it’s like going to one of those facilities with all the resources and not having to pay for it,” said Anderson, who plans to spend a week in Houston at O Athletik, the training facility owned by teammates Trent Williams and newly re-signed Adrian Peterson.
When he returns to workouts in Ashburn in a couple weeks, Anderson will have another Alabama teammate to welcome to Washington in safety Landon Collins.
Teammates for three years with the Crimson Tide, Anderson and Collins already got acquainted the night before Collins signed with the team on the second day of free agency, attending a steak dinner to greet the former New York Giant and his family.
“I was real excited,” Anderson said. “Anytime you get a guy like that, you know, we played together and are coming from the same program we did -- I know what he’s all about. I know he’s for real, he’s not a pretender.”
Anderson attested to the fact that Collins isn’t a vocal leader, but one that leads by example, something Collins confirmed at his press conference last week.
“It’s always good to be surrounded by guys that have the same goals as you,” Anderson said. “Like I said, we came from the place, so we have the same mentality. Holidays, Fourth of July, Christmas, we are always together, so those guys in the locker room are family. So that type of camaraderie and brotherhood can help us even when we’re tired, to have another guy that knows what it takes and has been through the same type of stuff and can feel the same way about certain situations. You practice winning football and that’s a big part of playing football.”