INDIANAPOLIS — After the Indianapolis Colts announced earlier this offseason they were changing to a 4-3 defensive scheme — the team had been playing in a 3-4 the previous six seasons — many wondered how that would affect the defensive linemen and linebackers currently on the roster.
But one of the key, young pieces to the Colts' defensive front explained on Monday exactly how he's making the transition.
Henry Anderson, a starter at defensive end in Indy's 3-4 scheme, said he's cut about 15 to 20 pounds from his frame in order to be able to play quicker in the 4-3, which new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as described as much more of an attacking style of play for those up front.
"We switched the scheme up a little bit so I have to be a little bit quicker and faster," Anderson told reporters Monday, the first day of the team's offseason workout program. "I definitely just feel like I'm moving a lot better because obviously not carrying as much weight so you can kind of move around and be a little more agile. I definitely feel good and am excited to get back out on the field for sure."
The switch to the 4-3 represents a completely new approach for Anderson, who not only played in the 3-4 his first three years in the NFL with the Colts, but also played in that scheme during his college career at Stanford.
But once Anderson learned the team was making the switch earlier this offseason, he worked with Anna Turner, the team's nutritionist, as well as the team's strength staff, to cut down his weight from around 300 pounds, which is about the ideal weight for a defensive lineman in a 3-4.
Anderson admitted Monday it was difficult at times to keep that weight on, but after dropping a few pounds — mainly by altering his diet — in recent months, he's ready to see the effects on the field.
"I could do it (play heavier), but I feel like I'm a little bit more comfortable at this weight anyway," he said. " It wasn't hard for me to drop that weight. Obviously, moving to the 4-3 I knew that I couldn't be like an edge guy at 295 [pounds]. I kind of needed to drop some weight there."
Anderson in 2017 finished the season on Injured Reserve for the second time in his three-year NFL career, although the circumstances between the two injuries couldn't have been more different.
In 2015, after putting together a terrific first half of his rookie season, Anderson suffered a torn ACL and missed the final seven games. Last season, however, Anderson took a hit to his throat during the Colts' Week 9 game against the Houston Texans. He learned after the game he had suffered a laryngeal fracture, which required season-ending surgery.
At the time of the throat injury, Anderson was really starting to come on strong for the Colts' defense. He ended his season having collected 19 tackles (four for a loss), two sacks, seven quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
Anderson, who was unable to talk for a few weeks following his surgery, said Monday he's been cleared for full participation in this offseason's activities.
He said after just one day with the coaches it's tough to pinpoint exactly what his role will be for the Colts' defense moving forward, but envisions himself at this moment as more of a defensive end on early downs, and then sliding into the interior on passing downs.
That kind of versatility, as well as the attacking style the 4-3 presents, should suit Anderson well.
"It definitely sounds like it's going to be fun," Anderson said. "At the snap of the ball you're just freaking going. It's not as much sitting back and waiting. You're just going and trying to disrupt. It's exciting to hear the coaches talk about it. I wish I knew how it's going to be playing the defense, but I really haven't played it before so I'm not going to find out until once we get on to the field."