The Patriots went into the 2023 league year searching for offensive tackle help following a disappointing campaign for the offensive line last season.
Although they've yet to take a big swing in the tackle market, New England continues bolstering its depth by reportedly signing former Broncos tackle Calvin Anderson to a two-year contract. Anderson, formerly a 2019 undrafted free-agent signing with the Patriots, showed promise when thrust into a major role with Denver as their starting left tackle for seven games in 2022.
After ending his collegiate career at the University of Texas, Anderson had a terrific Pro Day, posting a relative athletic score of 8.70 out of ten. Mainly, Anderson has elite explosiveness and agility for an offensive lineman, while his ten-yard split was also excellent for added proof, and that translates on film with his range in the run game and fluidity in pass protection.
Anderson (LT, no. 76) explodes out of his stance to execute reach blocks against on-the-line defenders in Denver's zone-blocking schemes. You routinely see him overtake players who are out-leveraging him at the snap, whether it's reaching a defender playing outside of him, such as a five or seven-technique, like the first clip, or firing out of his stance to get head-up on an interior defender in the B-Gap (second and third clips above).
Anderson's athleticism also shows up when he's asked to climb to the second level or block in space on screens. Above, Anderson does his part on the combination block to help the left guard overtake the D-Tackle (no. 92) and then comes off the double-team to work up to the linebacker (no. 6) as he paves the way for the ball carrier – a very smooth athlete.
In pass protection, Anderson has smooth change of direction talent, using an effective jump set and 45-degree set to cut off the angles to the quarterback working on an island.
Here, old friend Chandler Jones tries to use a cross-chop move to create a pathway to the quarterback and turn the corner. The Pats new offensive tackle has the explosiveness to protect his edge and mirrors with smooth footwork to shut down one of Jones's go-to moves.
Along with his movement skills in pass protection, Anderson shows good awareness to pick up schemed rushes (blitzes, stunts). Above, Anderson allows his left guard to take the slanting rusher to the inside while getting his eyes and hips outside to pick up a blitzing Jeremy Chinn.
The Texas product is now coming full circle by returning to the team where he broke into the league as an undrafted rookie, but as athletic as he is, he has some inconsistencies that still need work. Anderson posted a pass-blocking efficiency rating of 95.6, which is 60th among 69 tackles with at least 280 pass-blocking snaps due to a few key areas that need improvement (stats via PFF).
Anderson went undrafted after spending three seasons at Rice before transferring to play as a senior for the Longhorns because he struggled with power. He has difficulties establishing first contact with his shorter arms (33.13 inches), carries his hands too low and wide while relying too much on a two-hand strike, and sometimes gets caught off-balance.
These issues arise when Anderson is matched against elite speed-to-power rushers, catching those powerful bull rushers with his chest rather than firm hands.
For instance, Anderson is up against Panthers star pass-rusher Brian Burns here. He sits back in his pass set with his hands down by his waist, and since they're late to fire, Burns gets inside his frame and goes right through Anderson to the quarterback with his patented speed-to-power.
The positive takeaway from reviewing Anderson's film is that he has legitimate upside thanks to noticeable initial quickness out of his stance and above-average fluidity to mirror edge rushers. His athleticism is starting-caliber with more technique work, likely on the left side where his skillset best fits into the Patriots system.
Although it's too early to make any grand proclamations, the Pats could be preparing to move Trent Brown back to right tackle for the 2023 season while searching for left tackles. According to reports, the Patriots were also in the mix for former first-rounder Andre Dillard before he signed with the Titans. Dillard also projects as a left tackle, and then they pivoted to Anderson, another left tackle prototype for their offense.
However, signing Anderson is not a solution to New England's tackle issues, and the team must still invest more premium assets on surer things at the position.
Anderson is an upgrade over the backup tackles the Patriots rostered last season but ideally upgrades New England's depth chart behind their starting tackles.