The phrase “Built by Bama” is more than just a mantra that fans throw out on social media. It’s a mindset, a code that every player former Alabama head coach Nick Saban has sent to the NFL lives by. It’s what newly minted NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Will Anderson Jr. tries to live by week in and week out in the NFL.
While at Radio Row for Super Bowl LVIII, Anderson Jr. spoke with SB Nation’s JP Acosta about lessons learned from Nick Saban, the schematic differences in how he played at Alabama vs how he plays in Houston, and competition between he and Texans’ QB CJ Stroud. All of it brought to you by Jif, who is collaborating with Bounty to help save the celery that gets left behind the chicken wings.
When Anderson Jr. was at Alabama, he was often on the inside shoulder of the tackle, in a 4i technique. primarily playing the run on the way to the pass. However, in Houston, he kicked to the outside shoulder of the tackle in more of a Wide 9 alignment.
Anderson Jr. said the leveraging and hand placement is much different from how he played at Alabama, but his growth over the season is a shining example of the growth the Texans’ defense went through over the course of the season. Houston finished 15th in the NFL in Defensive EPA per play, but after the midpoint of the NFL season the Texans were one of the fastest, most aggressive defenses in the league, and Anderson Jr. was the lynchpin. His bullrush stymied opposing tackles all season, and Anderson said that he worked on setting it up across different angles and against different passing sets.
Anderson Jr. said he works on using stutter steps and using his speed to set up the power, a devastating combo for any pass rusher to have in their arsenal. Anderson Jr. finished the season with seven sacks, but his high level of play turned the Texans’ defense into a fearsome young unit.