The Minnesota Vikings announced that they have signed former Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Justin Anderson to their practice squad.
The #Vikings have signed LB Justin Anderson to the Practice Squad.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 24, 2014
It’s not as interesting as the Henry Josey signing, both because Josey has a compelling story regarding injury and because Anderson is being signed to the practice squad, not the 53-man roster. Anderson initially signed with the New York Giants after the draft, but didn’t stick because of an injury.
He’s another athletic prospect, ranking in the 71st percentile of all linebackers in weight-adjusted combine scores from 1999-2013, though not quite the “freak” that Justin Jackson was (a brief signing after the first round of cuts from the Lions, but he didn’t make the Vikings practice squad) by any reasonable margin.
The leading tackler in the Sun Belt Conference, Anderson is a heads-up hitter with decent closing burst. He’s smallish at about 230 pounds and doesn’t have great lateral range, but he can drop into coverage well. He was a monster against Western Kentucky, hammering the wide receiver just after a catch and then recovering the ensuing fumble and taking it to the house. Just for good measure, he forced and recovered another fumble later in the game.
His NFL future will depend on how well he can handle bigger tight ends and faster action outside the Sun Belt. Watch for him to have a big game against Tulane, which has one of the weakest offenses in the nation.
Given the NFL’s movement towards “undersized” linebackers and projecting them as coverage guys or special teams standouts, I don’t expect his weight to be an enormous problem unless it impacts his durability further. I suspect this will allow the Vikings to backstop against further Brandon Watts injuries should they come in the offseason (as they seem to be similar players).
No word on who will be cut from the practice squad in order to make room.