Quarterback Derek Anderson once made the Pro Bowl as a full-time starter for the Cleveland Browns in 2007.
Fast forward nine years and the 33-year-old Anderson is one of the top backups in the league behind superstar and reigning league MVP Cam Newton. Anderson has won both of his starts over the last five seasons in Carolina, completing 73-of-107 passes for five touchdowns and no interceptions in spot duty.
Prior to joining the Panthers in 2011, Anderson came off a frustrating season in Arizona, as he was benched for undrafted quarterback Max Hall, a name many don’t remember at all.
The former 2005 sixth-round pick from Oregon State has done his job quite well with Carolina, which led the team to reward him last September with a two-year, $4.7 million deal ($1.5 million guaranteed).
Finding a full-fledged starter in this league is beyond tough but the Panthers hit home with the Newton No. 1 overall pick in 2011. In addition, they found a steady presence on and off the field in Anderson, which is hard to come by these days.
“He can talk to the coaches. He can talk to Cam. And he can talk to the other guys,” Head coach Ron Rivera told ESPN on Aug. 13. “You watch him. He talks to the receivers, backs, tight ends. He is really a coach on the field.’’
Originally drafted by Baltimore 11 years ago, Anderson had relative success in college, having three straight seasons with 3,000 or more passing yards and 78 combined touchdowns from his sophomore to senior year.
He had a chance to go to another team, but to be a part of a winning culture, and play somewhere he thrives is clearly what he was looking for. The Panthers are happy he is back this year and so is he.
“There’s a lot of things that people don’t see, a lot of things that I have to do. It’s not physically demanding, but there’s a lot of mental preparation that goes into it every week,” Anderson said via Panthers.com. “I’m not old, but I’m getting there. I want to win football games. I want to have a chance to win a Super Bowl.”
It’s been so far so good for Anderson this preseason as he’s completed 24 of 43 passes for 248 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He did, however, lose a fumble in the preseason opener at Baltimore.
Take away the 2014 season where he made two starts in the place of an injured Newton, and Anderson has thrown only 10 passes in four seasons, so the preseason is where he gets plenty of reps that are more than just mental.
At 6-foot-6, 235 lbs., Anderson won’t take you over the top, but he’ll come in and do what he needs to do. That’s what makes him one of the premier backups in this league.
Carolina is in good hands if Newton goes down. They’ll be less versatile on offense, but they’ll still be able to win games because Anderson is a solid quarterback, and the Panthers defense is incredibly talented.
There really isn’t a better quarterback room in the NFL right now.