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Will Anderson Jr. impact immediately felt on return | Week 17


Will Anderson Jr. is who you would consider an impact player in the Texans defensive scheme week in and week out.

Unfortunately, due to a high ankle sprain suffered against the Jets on December 10, the services of the No. 3 overall pick haven't been available the past two weeks.

"These last two weeks have been really good mentally, and of course physically getting my ankle back right, resting my body," Anderson said. "But more than anything it was really good mentally just locking in on my faith trusting in and believing in God, but also learning what I could have done better in the past to help me in the future."

As all eyes were on the return of quarterback C.J. Stroud from a concussion, semi-quietly Anderson returned to practice late last week to see if he'd be able to go against the Titans in a crucial AFC South showdown. 

"All I was thinking about this week was how can I be a warrior, how can I be a competitor," Anderson said about battling back from injury.

Anderson was eventually greenlighted for Sunday's game but on a limited snap count. 

"I'm really proud of Will for pushing through," Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. "He's in a lot of pain, he's hurt but still sucked it up and pushed through. He made a lot of impact plays even though he was on a limited snap count. He was still able to affect the quarterback."

With 43 seconds remaining in the first half and the Titans driving, the Texans needed a defensive stand. 

The Titans had reached the Texans 36 yard line. As Ryan Tannehill dropped back on a 1st-and-10 play, Anderson blew through a would-be double-team and sacked him for a nine-yard loss.

On the very next play, backed up to the 45, once again Anderson broke through and slammed down Tannehill into the Texans logo at midfield. A loss of eight yards and pushed back into Titans territory at their own 47. 

Back-to-back plays. Back-to-back sacks for the rookie in a span of five seconds.

"Back-to-back sacks at any level of football is crazy," Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. "For a rookie to do that coming off of injury in his first game back is big time. I know he loved every moment of it. I loved watching it. Just happy for him to continue to have his impact that he's had all season long." 

The two sacks also made a little history for Anderson. 

Entering Sunday's game, Anderson had five sacks in his rookie campaign, which placed him fifth all-time on the list. With sacks No. 6 and No. 7 on Sunday, he vaulted to the No. 1 all-time spot.

"None of this happens without those guys in the D-line room," Anderson said. "I give all glory to God for blessing me to be a part of this team and blessing me to be a part of the D-line we have here.

"They've been very supportive of me, helping me along the way. When I'm down they pick me right back up. They always keep me grounded, make sure I'm staying focused on the right things. I've got to give a big shoutout to those guys because without God placing them in my life I don't even think I would be where I'm at."

Anderson passed Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed who were tied for first all-time with six. Amobi Okoye and J.J. Watt checked in on the list at 5.5 sacks. On the list 10th all-time with 3.5 sacks in 2006 as a rookie is his current head coach – DeMeco Ryans. 

"For him to break the rookie record, I know that means a lot to him," Ryans said. "That's the type of player Will is. He's an impact player and you see it instantly. You see we've missed him. When he hasn't been there we've missed him. You see the production, you see the type of plays he can make for us. Really proud of him, proud of the season he's having."

Anderson finished Sunday's game with the two sacks, two tackles and three quarterback hits against the Titans.

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