Where have you gone, Mark Anderson of 2006? Where is the rookie sensation who had 12 sacks over 16 games as a part-time starter for the NFC Champion Chicago Bears? Anderson also caused four fumbles on his way to a run at the Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
However if you closely examine Anderson’s 2006 season, you find that his success came in spurts, but also came against some of the worst pass-protecting offenses in the league for that year.
When you break it down, Anderson had 8.5 sacks against teams that were in the bottom ten in the league in sacks allowed on the season. Anderson had 2.5 sacks against the Detroit Lions, 2.0 against the Buffalo Bills, 2.0 against the Seattle Seahawks, 2.0 against the St. Louis Rams—teams that were just awful in pass protection in 2006.
With this type of production against teams that were this bad at protecting the passer it’s easy to see how Anderson’s numbers were so inflated. Feasting against the worst pass-protecting teams is exactly the reputation Anderson built for himself.
So the question is, will he be able to take advantage of Rod Marinelli’s arrival and get back to that level of production?
I find that very unlikely. Anderson has some natural pass-rushing ability, but there isn’t one aspect of his game that he does very well. He has decent size to be a weak-side pass rusher at 6'4" and 255 pounds. But he is undersized by the regular standards of what would be considered ideal.
Anderson’s speed off the edge is also not very impressive for a player who needs to mae his living off of rushing the QB. While he may have the most speed off the edge of any player on the Bears’ roster, it’s inadequate. Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye have average speed at best when it comes to running the curve.
While Brown has superb closing speed and both the starters hold up well against the run, getting to the QB is the weak point of their games.
You can even argue that Ogunleye has given up at this point in his career, given how big of a failure he has been in Chicago.
Anderson further hurts himself by not being able to hold up well against the run, thus limiting his role to a third down rusher. As a starter Anderson was man-handled against the run, making it easy for teams to run at him.
The only plus side of Anderson’s failure was the fire it lit under the ass of Alex Brown. Brown has in turn become one of the best DEs in the league against the run. Brown saved the game against the Eagles with his fourth and one stop on the goal-line.
With the arrival of both Jarron Gilbert and Henry Melton, Anderson may be on his last chance to be a part of the D-Line rotation. Both the rookies have attributes that Anderson lacks. Also by virtue of their draft standings this year, they are both guaranteed a spot on the roster.
So the battle for Anderson this year may be for his very NFL career. With Marinelli here, and a load of competition behind him, it’s Anderson’s year to put up or shut up. If he doesn’t show signs of big things in the preseason, you aren't likely to see him on the Bears’ final 53-man roster.