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Monday, May 11, 2009
Falcons' Anderson hoping for breakout year


 
  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
  Jamaal Anderson, drafted by the Falcons eighth overall in 2007, has yet to meet expectations on the field.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- If you press a certain button on Ray Hamilton's computer, you get the best of Michael Strahan and Kevin Greene. It's all part of an attempt to get the best of Jamaal Anderson.

Hamilton is the defensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons and Anderson is the No. 8 pick from the 2007 draft who hasn't come anywhere close to tapping his enormous potential in his first two seasons.

That's why Anderson has spent a large chunk of his offseason sitting in Hamilton's office watching clips of two of the greatest pass-rushers in history. They have a couple of hundred sacks between them. Anderson has just two, and those didn't come until his second season.

"They had great usage of their hands," Anderson said. "They always had great leverage. I'm just trying to take some of the things they did and use them to make myself a better player."

Although many fans already have declared Anderson a bust, the Falcons haven't. He still lined up at defensive end with the first team in the three-day minicamp that concluded Sunday. That's a pretty strong indication that the hope is Anderson will step up and keep that position.

"Jamaal's worked hard and he's made progress," coach Mike Smith said. "Unfortunately, guys often times are judged by their draft status and that comes with the territory. But my experience here with Jamaal in one season is that we are pleased with his progress. We think he's made huge steps from the first day that we got here and we think he will continue to do that."

It's nice to talk about progress, but fans want production. So do the Falcons and so does Anderson.

"This is a big year for me, no doubt," Anderson said.

Jamaal Anderson
#98 DE
Atlanta Falcons

CAREER STATS
TACK SOLO SACK FF INT
57 50 2.0 1 0

That's why he's taken a much more studious approach to the offseason. Ask around Flowery Branch about Anderson and the word is that he has spent more offseason time at the complex than just about any player.

In addition to the countless hours of watching film of Strahan and Greene, Anderson also has spent more time in the weight room than ever. He said he's stronger and quicker than he's been and he wants that to translate into success on the field.

There were some fan-generated rumblings about Anderson perhaps switching from defensive end to defensive tackle. That's not happening, although Anderson will continue to move inside in sub packages, just like he did last year.

"In terms of flexibility, he's a guy that we played last year in base at defensive end and played him inside in our sub package and that probably will continue," Smith said. "That gives you a lot of flexibility on game days."

Anderson strongly believes he's ready to be more productive in his third season. He understands the frustration of the fans. Heck, he's frustrated too. That's why he's worked harder than ever this offseason.

"I try my hardest not to pay attention to what's said, but it's pretty much impossible to tune everything out," Anderson said. "My sister's into gossip and she tries to give me feedback that's out there, but all I can do is trust the people who are here every day and they're giving me positive feedback. But the fact is, I've become my own worst critic."

That's why he's been watching so much of Strahan and Greene, and that's why he's spent so much time in the weight room. Anderson knows this is a make-or-break season.