He is known to many Falcons fans simply as JA98. That moniker refers to the name and number of this former first round pick out of Arkansas. To those who don't know the name, it's Jamaal Anderson, and he was supposed to be the big time defensive end that the Falcons needed to get that pass-rush moving in the right direction.
To date, he has yet to mature into the guy that the Falcons brass thought he would and many fans feel that we have already given up on JA98.
I certainly have.
When you look at what he has done in the last two years, he simply has not been impressive. In two years as the Falcons starting defensive end, his stat line reads 57 tackles, two sacks, and six pass deflections. That is hardly the kind of production you would expect to see from a former top ten pick.
By contrast, LaMarr Woodley, the second round pick of the Steelers in that same draft has 74 tackles, 15.5. sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. He has played in three less games than Anderson and didn't become a starter until his second year in the league.
Clearly, I am aware that Pittsburgh currently has a better defense than the Falcons and the possibility of success for Woodley was far more attainable than for Anderson, but the talent level of Anderson was supposed to make that Falcons defensive line appreciably better than the year before and it hasn't.
Further, look at what John Abraham has been able to do on the other side as his counterpart; clearly, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Anderson can succeed at his position if he has the skills that the Falcons felt he did when he was drafted.
He simply hasn't found that groove yet.
I'm not looking for double-digit sacks by any means, sacks are not easy to come by. And, more to the point, I don't think that they are always the measure of a great defensive end. However, I am looking for him to put more pressure on the quarterback than he does.
For a guy who left the SEC with 17.5 sacks in twenty starts, he has shown me little in the way of that quick first step off the snap that lets the opposing quarterback know that he better get that ball off in a hurry or he will find himself kissing dirt.
In some games he seems focused and lively, while in others, you might question whether or not he is even in the game.
Now, I know that it has only been two years and there is still hope for Anderson to mature into that powerful pass-rusher that we so hope he can be, but his time is quickly running out as the Falcons seem to be content with letting Chauncey Davis be the man that JA98 has yet to become.
It is possible that Davis was signed to light a fire under Anderson and that this may be the wake-up call the young fellow needs to get back on track. I am still pulling for him to succeed because, after all, we did spend millions on him to be that player. Not to mention the fact that John Abraham isn't getting any younger and I don't foresee a whole lot of those 16+ sack seasons in the near-future.
JA98's time is now and if he can't get it done, he may need to switch positions to something that better fits his skill level.