Got your attention with that one, didn't I?
Yes, Mike Smith actually said on the record to good ol' D. Orlando Ledbetter that Jamaal Anderson is going to continue to play left defensive end in the team's basic packages, and will rotate in to defensive tackle when the situation calls for it. Of course, it's not as simple as that.
Well, I had a long, thoughtful and reasonably well-written post after the jump here, but my blogging software cheerfully gave me the finger and didn't save nearly an hour's worth of work. Goddamnit.
Since I do have to hang upside down from my ceiling and sleep at some point, let's hit the high points of why this really isn't a good idea.
If JA98 is getting a share of say 200-350 snaps this season, and half of those or more are at defensive end, Mike Smith is really doing this team a disservice. I always hesitate to hammer him hard, because his decisions so rarely go terribly wrong. But Anderson doesn't have any business starting outside for even a small share of the snaps.
I get what Smith and the rest of the coaching staff want to do here. They'd like to get a true rotation going, one that brings every player's strengths to bear and keeps the team fresh. It's a great idea, but let's be clear on one thing: Jamaal Anderson cannot rush the passer, and he's unlikely to suddenly blossom in the way that Kroy Biermann did in 2009 or Lawrence Sidbury might do in 2010. Unless the opposing team's running back is wearing a neon sign that says "RUNNING STRAIGHT AT JAMAAL ANDERSON," you probably don't want him in the game often. I know it probably sounds like I enjoy beating up JA98, but that's not really true. I just calls 'em like I sees 'em, and what I sees is a guy who really should be spelling Duff Man and L-Sid with some rotational snaps at defensive tackle at best.
If Smith is really hellbent on turning this into a true rotation, he'd be wise to make sure Anderson's low on the priority list. He's had three full seasons to prove to us all that he's capable of turning into the sack artist he was always supposed to be, and he's done little outside of prove solid against the run. That's valuable, but not so valuable he should be getting a significant share of snaps. Smith's comments are just cryptic and coach-y enough that I'm concerned this might be the case.