The Houston Texans are on the verge of accomplishing the impossible this season. If you asked fans if they believed their team could become Super Bowl contenders a few years ago, the answers would dampen the mood. A shift in culture gives fans new hope as they watch DeMeco Ryans’ team compete in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. A battle against the Baltimore Ravens will alter Houston’s post-season fate. A win will send Houston to the AFC Conference Championship for the first time in franchise history. If they fail, the season will come to an end.
Limiting Lamar Jackson’s production is a great way to ensure a successful outing. Matt Burke’s defense must come prepared to face off against the most lethal dual-threat quarterback. Luckily, the Houston Texans drafted an X-Factor to control the edge.
What can we expect from Will Anderson Jr. in the divisional round?
Will Anderson Jr. was a profitable first-round decision
C.J. Stroud is the first player that fans refer to when discussing the 2023 NFL Draft. Nick Caserio’s front office exchanged the second overall pick for the services of Ohio State’s top prospect. It was a matchmake in heaven for long-time supporters who were ready to move on from the days Deshaun Watson carried the franchise. Stroud fulfilled expectations immediately and became the star the Texans knew he would become.
A successful supporting cast played a vital role in the rookie's success. Stroud relied on experienced skill players to move the chains and a stout defense to protect the end zone. Will Anderson Jr. did not hesitate to become a leader in Matt Burke’s defense. He was selected one pick behind Stroud but has made an equivalent impact. At the end of his first season, Anderson Jr. earned the fourth-highest defensive rating (82.5) on the roster and finished second in sacks (8). The former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide received seven defensive grades higher than 70 or better. Anderson Jr.’s best performance came in Week 17 against the Tennessee Titans. The rookie tied his season high in sacks (2) and helped the Texans secure a playoff berth.
An impressive start to his career helped Will Anderson Jr. earn the respect of his peers. He’s considered one of the best edge rushers after an 18-game audition. We expect him to continue his streak of terror against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday afternoon. Lamar Jackson will be the biggest threat on the field. He must eliminate him at all costs.
Lamar Jackson will struggle against a disciplined edge rusher
Containing the edge against a skilled rusher is easier said than done. The Baltimore Ravens have an effective run offense. Lamar Jackson is the catalyst. This season, the sixth-year quarterback finished first in rushing yards (821) among non-running backs. It is the highest total of the young QB's career and impressive enough to assign an extra defender. Keeping the football on the ground is Todd Monken’s scheme of choice. They ranked fifth in run grading (90.7) and will continue to lean on their strengths in a post-season match-up.
Limiting extra yardage will become Will Anderson Jr.’s job this weekend. He’s a youthful defender with enough speed and strength to set the edge against incoming blockers. The Baltimore Ravens will keep the rookie busy throughout the afternoon. Jonathan Greenard will be called upon to provide backup if needed. Together, Greenard and Anderson Jr. are one of the most lethal edge-rushing duos in the league. They combined for 22 of the Texans’ 53 sacks in the regular season.
Establishing success early against an aggressive offense will strengthen the odds of winning on Saturday afternoon. Lamar Jackson is an established dual-threat quarterback. He is hungry for a playoff win. The sixth-year gunslinger carried the ball 85 times and earned five rushing touchdowns this season. They are among the second-lowest totals in Jackson’s career. Will Anderson Jr. must take advantage of a rusty X-Factor in a crucial playoff game.
All statistics courtesy of pff.com