Trade Of Henry Anderson All About Scheme Fit

Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard on Saturday said the decision to trade defensive lineman Henry Anderson — in exchange for a seventh-round pick — was based around the team’s change to a 4-3 defensive front.

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INDIANAPOLIS —When healthy, Henry Anderson was an extremely productive player along the defensive line for the Indianapolis Colts.

But since his college days at Stanford, Anderson has made a name of himself by making plays as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, where he could use his size and strength to occupy multiple blockers and generate push up front.

That's what attracted the Colts to Anderson back in 2015, when the team selected him in the third round of the NFL Draft to be a key piece to their 3-4 defense under then-head coach Chuck Pagano.

But the arrival of a new head coach, Frank Reich, this offseason brought about major changes for the Colts' defense, which will be making the transition to a 4-3 front under coordinator Matt Eberflus. As such, some players — especially those up front — just weren't going to be ideal fits moving forward.

That ended up being the case for Anderson, who was traded on Saturday to the New York Jets for a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The simple explanation from Colts general manager Chris Ballard?

"Yeah, scheme," he said. "Scheme fit."

It's the second time this offseason that the Colts decided to part ways with a productive defensive lineman from the previous regime and scheme; on March 17, the team released Johnathan Hankins, who was one of the better run stoppers in the league last season.

Unfortunately for the Colts and Anderson, multiple season-ending injuries limited the availability of a player who showed obvious signs of dominance in his three years in Indy.

Anderson was having a terrific rookie season in 2015 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury Week 9 against the Denver Broncos. At the time, he had 35 tackles (five for a loss), one sack and two passes defensed.

He was able to return to the field by Week 3 of the following season, but was clearly still in the process of getting back to 100 percent throughout the year, playing in 11 games with two starts and posting 15 tackles, one fumble recovery, five quarterback hits and two passes defensed.

Fully healthy heading into 2017, Anderson rebounded from a slow start to become a consistent destructive force for the Indy defense by Week 7. But just two weeks later, he suffered a bizarre throat injury in the team's Week 9 against the Texans in Houston, and he would need to be placed on Injured Reserve for the second time in three seasons.

Anderson finished the 2017 season with 22 tackles (four for a loss), two sacks, seven quarterback hits and one forced fumble in nine games played with eight starts. He also blocked a field goal attempt against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Upon learning of the Colts' change to the 4-3 early in the offseason, Anderson said he dropped about 15 to 20 pounds off his 6-foot-6 frame in an attempt to be in better position to play both on the edge as a defensive end and in the interior as a defensive tackle. But, in the end, the team decided to go with other options along the defensive front.

Not that the Colts aren't going to miss him.

"Look, a great Colt," Ballard said of Anderson. "The injuries were unfortunate for Henry and kind of sidelined him the last few years, but Henry Anderson is a first class human being, a great kid and we wish him the best. But it was a better scheme fit in New York than it was here."

In 29 total games with the Colts with 19 starts, Anderson collected 74 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and fumble recovery apiece and four passes defensed.

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