Converting college defensive ends to outside linebackers seems to be a popular item on the Texans' coaching agenda. Kailee Wong was a college defensive end who played as a middle linebacker in Minnesota, then moved to Houston and made the switch successfully.
And this season, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has another crop of converts. First-round pick Jason Babin has already been slated as the team's starting left outside linebacker after making the transition from the Western Michigan defensive line. Yet one other hopeful, Charlie Anderson, is also enrolled in outside linebacker school this fall and is certainly one to keep a close vigil over.
Anderson joined the team back in April, when the Texans selected him as the last of the team's three sixth-round draft choices.
| Anderson made a career-high 11 stops last season in Mississippi's last-minute loss to eventual co-national champion LSU.|
Houston scouts spotted Anderson at the Rebels' pro day workouts. Though he started 31 of 48 games in Oxford, amassing 127 tackles and 12 ½ sacks, he was never invited to any of the college football post-season All-Star games and was absent from the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
"He was part of the workout there," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said about Anderson's private workout at Ole Miss. "He caught their eye. When (the scouts) came back, they asked me to watch some tape on him. I watched three or four games. Then we brought him in here for a visit and I met him and thought he was a guy who had a chance to develop into an outside linebacker."
Always on the lookout for players who possess defensive end qualities including relentless pass rushing, Houston saw Anderson as a player who could be groomed to fit the mold.
"I saw athletic ability that I could see transfer to be an outside linebacker," Fangio said. "I liked his size and his growth potential and the way he was moving around for a guy that tall. I thought he could be a good pass rusher yet still have the ability to pass-drop and cover people."
Acquiring transition players like Anderson over the past few years has kept Fangio on his toes as the coordinator on defense and has really tested his tutorial skills as a coach.
"Everybody in my room has really started off their career as a defensive end," Fangio said about his outside linebackers. "All of our guys were defensive ends in college, playing with their hand down, so it's a challenge to get them transferred to be a linebacker, play on their two feet and be able to drop, recognize the pass better and be more of a complete player.
"It's challenge but you enjoy it and it's fun to bring them along."
So far, Anderson's evolution has flourished in just a few short months. Just following the draft, Anderson packed up his car and drove from Mississippi to Texas-it's been all business since.
His first impressions of NFL life has been both demanding and rewarding at the same time.
"It's a struggle," Anderson said. "You have to come out here every day and give it your all and you're always trying to get better and make the team.
"But just been around the guys and having fun, learning from the veterans has been great. When you were in college, you didn't have too many older guys you could look up to, guys that have been around for eight or more years."
Over the past few months, Anderson has really warmed up to the idea of dropping into coverage, taking on receivers and tight ends while continuing his plight to reach the pocket. His speed has helped him make the adjustment, but time and experience will truly yield his evolution as an effective outside linebacker
"I think he'll surprise us somewhat but I do think he needs to get stronger and play more physical," Fangio explained.
The 243-pound defenseman stands at a lofty 6-4. While he may not carry much bulk, Anderson possesses a rare but beneficial linear presence topped by a long wingspan, effective in disrupting the aerial game.
And Anderson has soaked up every meeting and practice session so far in his young career. He says he's benefited tremendously from lining up against the tight end Mark Bruener, whose technique is probably the best he'll see at that position. Anderson has also been influenced by 11-year veteran offensive tackle Marcus Spears, who has given him a few pointers about getting around offensive obstacles en route to the passer.
Hard work and will give him a strong chance, but Anderson knows that he faces a lot of competition in the battle for a roster spot. And his versatility between multiple linebacker slots, paired with valuable efforts on special teams, could raise his stock.
Over the next few weeks, Anderson will use the final preseason contests to prove why his name should be penciled in on the depth chart, or even onto the practice squad.
"(The preseason) is very important right now because I don't think they have me starting, so I want to help the team on special teams. Hopefully I'm able to play on special teams and play the position they have me in and just play physical while not making too many errors."
In the Texans' short history, only one other sixth-round pick, cornerback Demarcus Faggins, has been able to stick it out on the Texans roster. In 2004, Anderson will be one of three players who look to re-write Texans draft history. His journey will definitely be one to watch this preseason.