Jamaal Anderson, the newest Bengal, just turned 26 a month ago. He figures that maybe now is his time to emerge instead of at the ripe young age of 21 in that 2007 draft he was supposed to be Atlanta's latest top 10 savior.
"When I came out, I was young and I think I had to go through same maturity," Anderson said Saturday from Atlanta when his signing became official. "I'm a fan of this game. I like to watch and I like to learn about it and hopefully it's going to show up on the field."
The 6-6, 270-pound Anderson has been watching and listening since he came out of Arkansas as a lanky defensive end that has turned into a guy that may be able to help the Bengals at end and tackle in their line rotation.
Michael Strahan. Dwight Freeney. Robert Mathis. Anderson has been taking notes.
Ironically, he began his NFL listening to the man he has been reunited with in Cincinnati, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. In Zimmer's only season with the same job in Atlanta, Anderson was the No. 1 pick in a tough rookie season he had no sacks in 16 starts. It set a tone. He left the Falcons with just 4.5 in three seasons. But with three sacks last year in his one trip with the Colts, maybe there is something happening.
And yes, Anderson wonders what would have happened if Zimmer stuck around more than a year after the Bobby Petrino Implosion. Zimmer, it turned out, was a factor Anderson leaned to the Bengals instead of the Titans.
"The big thing I like about Zim is that he lets his defensive line play," Anderson said. "He wants you to go out and have fun. He wants you to react."
Anderson is excited about fitting into the seven- and eight-man rotation after it yielded effective results most of the season.
"Jay Hayes did a great job getting those guys in and out of there," Anderson said of the defensive line coach, and he feels like he can help at tackle as well at end after a season he played a lot inside because of injuries during a year he played about 40 percent of the snaps.
After the 2010 season, Strahan, the former Giant now retired, urged Anderson to lose weight after he bulked up for the run.
"He said he found out he could do the same things at 253 pounds that he could do at 283," Anderson said. "He felt like it makes you quicker and it helps you with your longevity and I think that made a difference for me."
While Anderson shed enough weight to get back down to 270 pounds last season, he was also working every day with two of the game's best bookends in Indy's Freeney and Mathis. Maybe the three sacks weren't a coincidence.
"I watched how they worked the offensive tackles," Anderson said. "It just wasn't '1-2-3 and boom' and they just did a move. Sometimes they go around the outside. Or they fake it outside or go onside. They're not just great athletes. They use their experience."
Now the Bengals hope to take advantage of that experience Anderson didn't have five years ago. He visited Tennessee after swinging through Cincinnati but he remembered how he literally fit in well with the other Bengals ends when he spoke with some of them: The 6-4
"We were joking about that; they like them tall," Anderson said. "I saw what's going on here. It's a young team that's going in the right direction and has a real chance in the division."
A young team. But, like Anderson hopes in his case, no longer too young.