Ex-Bears DE Mark Anderson becomes factor again with Pats
SEAN JENSEN ON THE NFL January 28, 2012 12:22AM
Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots
Updated: January 28, 2012 7:22PM
The Bears finished tied for 19th in the NFL with 33 sacks this season.
The 10 sacks the New England Patriots’ Mark Anderson racked up in 2011 would have bumped the Bears up to seventh.
But the math isn’t that simple.
In talking with him after the AFC Championship Game last Sunday, Anderson told me he needed some time to grow up.
‘‘I think I was just young,’’ Anderson, 28, said. ‘‘A lot of success early. And I didn’t really know the game. Just young, man. There’s a lot of different stuff that I had to learn as a player as I grew up.’’
A sixth-round draft pick out of Alabama, Anderson had a dozen sacks as a rookie for the Bears in 2006. But he had a combined 9½ sacks for them in the next three-plus seasons and was released Oct. 5, 2010. He signed with the Houston Texans and had four sacks in 11 games.
After the lockout last summer, Anderson settled for a one-year deal from the Patriots.
‘‘I finally got into a good situation,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘When I got here, I knew a little bit, and they put me in situations where I could make plays.’’
Asked why he had such a solid season for the Patriots, Anderson said: ‘‘I don’t know, man. Just coming into the organization, you’ve just got to have your ‘A’ game. If you don’t produce in practice, you won’t play in the game. And I just worked hard, and I came a long way. I thank God for everything, and everything just worked out.’’
Anderson was a well-rounded defensive end for the Patriots this season, not just an asset as a pass rusher. He ranked 24th against the run and 14th as a pass rusher, according to Pro Football Focus. And his rating of 13th overall was only six spots behind Bears star Julius Peppers.
I asked him if he takes ownership of what went wrong during his time with the Bears.
‘‘The whole Chicago thing, I just think we fell apart,’’ he said. ‘‘I guess they saw it was time to try something new and let me go, and it was time for me to get a fresh start. That’s how the whole Chicago thing played out. It was time for a change, man.’’
Anderson said he has a better understanding of the game now and is playing with more patience.
‘‘Before, when I was younger, I was just going,’’ he said. ‘‘I was straight going every play. Over the years, I’ve learned to relax and let the play come to you. Study more film. Study tendencies. And just maturing, man.’’
Anderson said he has no hard feelings toward Bears coach Lovie Smith or anybody else at Halas Hall.
‘‘I got love for coach Smith and the whole Bears organization,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘They gave me a shot.’’
The forgotten man
According to Pro Football Focus, J’Marcus Webb was the worst full-time starting left tackle in the NFL this season.
Webb had a rating of minus-24.7, which ranked 67th among offensive tackles, according to PFF. By contrast, the top-rated offensive tackle, the Phila-delphia Eagles’ Jason Peters, had a rating of 27.6.
Bears offensive line coach-turned-offensive coordinator Mike Tice has defended the play and potential of Webb, a seventh-round pick in the 2010 draft, at every turn.
But here’s something to keep an eye on: Perhaps Tice will consider moving Chris Williams back to left tackle to compete with Webb. Williams started nine games at guard before he was lost for the season to a wrist injury. He didn’t exactly shine, but he played solid football.
Next season, Webb likely will be penciled in as the starter at left tackle, Gabe Carimi as the starter at right tackle and Roberto Garza as the starter at center. There will plenty of competition for the two guard spots among Chris Spencer, Lance Louis and Edwin Williams.
That’s why Chris Williams might get a shot at left tackle.
The Bears could use an infusion of talent on the offensive line. For the second consecutive season, their offensive line ranked last in the league, according to STATS.
Given their needs at so many other positions, though, they might not be able to invest much more than a late-round pick in the unit.