FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Before I even got here, I had heard rumblings that Atlanta’s Jamaal Anderson was having a very strong training camp.
I chose not to write about it -- or even believe it -- until I got here and had a chance to check and see if it was true. After all, like virtually every media person on earth, I’ve heard that Anderson was ready to break out at any minute ever since the Falcons drafted him.
I’m still not expecting Anderson to ever become a 10-sack guy as a defensive end. However, I’ve got confirmation from the highest level that Anderson truly is having a good camp.
“That is true,’’ Atlanta coach Mike Smith said.
Smith wasn’t smiling or winking when he said that and he’s about as honest a coach as I’ve come across. He’s got a plan for Anderson and it includes more than using him at defensive end.
“We asked Jamaal to aggressively work on putting weight on,’’ Smith said. “He is now 295 plus. We will use Jamaal in a very similar fashion to what we did last year. He’ll play end in our base package and we’ll also slide him inside to work against the offensive guard and the center. He is a guy that has to take the next step and we have to have more production in terms of affecting the quarterback.’’
Scouts and personnel people around the league will tell you that Anderson didn’t look bad when he played defensive tackle last year. After talking to Smith and watching some practice, I’m suspecting we might see even more of Anderson at defensive tackle this year.
That’s even taking into consideration the fact the Falcons are expecting defensive tackle Peria Jerry to make a full return after missing almost all of last season. That also is taking into consideration the fact that the Falcons appear to be very high on defensive tackle Corey Peters, a third-round pick this year.
"We will go with a rotation,’’ Smith said. “We’re not going to go with just the four starters. We’re going to have a seven- or eight-man rotation. We want to make sure those guys are getting up the field and working the vertical penetration. That’s difficult when you’re having to do that more than 35 or 40 snaps a game. We’re trying to get it to where nobody on our defensive line is going to take more than 40 snaps.’’