Bijani: Texans rookie Will Anderson Jr.’s debut shows he more than just ‘belongs’


(SportsRadio 610) - From the first snap of Sunday’s game, the Texans' No. 3 overall pick displayed exactly what the organization thought they traded up nine spots for in this past April’s NFL draft.

A disruptive playmaker.

Will Anderson Jr. epitomized the "swarm" mentality that head coach DeMeco Ryans hopes becomes the identity of his team in his first year.

The former Alabama standout looked like anything but a rookie in his debut, routinely knifing his way into the backfield.

Anderson finished the game with five tackles, three hurries, one hit and his first career sack.

The former two-time SEC defensive player of the year also finished week one with the fourth highest pass rush win-rate for any edge rusher in the league.

While his team lost 25-9 Sunday and has plenty of room for improvement in all three phases, Anderson said that his special bond with fellow rookie C.J. Stroud has helped both of them fight through early adversities that go along with being first-year players in the league.

Sunday's loss will simply serve as the latest hurdle they’ll try and clear together.

“I think it’s really good that you have two rookies that are young, that are playing and that we lean on each other a lot,” Anderson said. “I told C.J. ‘nobody said this was gonna be easy, God didn’t put you here for no reason. He brought both of us here for a reason.’”

The former two-time unanimous All-American has played in some of the most raucous college environments, has been on some of the biggest stages and along the way, stockpiled one of the most impressive resumes during a dominating three-year stretch at Alabama.

Saturdays are a thing of the past.

A new chapter is beginning for Anderson and Sunday morning in Baltimore, hit different.

“Thank God I let my cry out at warm up,” Anderson said smiling. “It was just a real moment. Before the game even started, we do these little things, like you can walk the field. I usually walk the field and I usually warm up, but on Sunday it was a different type of feeling.

“I walked out there and I looked up and it finally hit me. I was like, ‘you’re really in the NFL,’ so that kind of got all of my nerves out of the way. So, when we got suited up, got together with the team and walked out, I was fine.”

He was more than just fine.

That much was evident, as that angry approach to his day-to-day on a practice field showed up the first snap of the game, when he found himself in the backfield after splitting two defenders to help bring down Ravens running back JK Dobbins.

“I know I belong here,” Anderson said. “I know my preparation and everything I’m doing throughout the week.”

Anderson said his teammates and coaches serve as constant reminders throughout the week, helping him stay level headed through the ups and the downs.

"Just having all of those type of people that tell you what you need to hear, instead of what you want to hear is always a great feeling," he said.

Anderson would be the first to tell you that while there was plenty to be encouraged about from the defensive line's performance on Sunday, his game was far from perfect.

But it was good. Really good.

Anderson became the first Texans rookie to record a sack in his debut. He also finished with the team's fourth-highest Pro Football Focus grade, scoring a 83.1 on 48 total snaps, which was just behind Steven Nelson (83.5/64 snaps), Henry To’oTo’o (84.3/22 snaps) and Tavierre Thomas (90.5/40 snaps).

It’s not about a number grade confirming what Anderson put on display Sunday.

It is about consistency.

He’s got to be that disruptor week in, week out.

Anderson has shown the maturity and understanding that for him and the defensive line to be successful, they have to rush together.

There are no individuals, there is a unit.

Sunday, they played like one. The fight, relentlessness and hunger he has to be better each day has been contagious.

If there’s been a common thread in Anderson’s four-and-a-half months since becoming a professional, it’s that all of his teammates and coaches say the same thing about him.

He’s the same person everyday.

“We’ve got the brick,” Anderson said. “Now, we’ve just got to keep putting the cement on the brick and keep stacking and keep building.”

Spoken like the cornerstone of the defense the Texans drafted him to be.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Sports Images