Broncos RB C.J. Anderson Could Benefit Most From Ball’s Absence


Sep 14, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) runs the ball during the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

On the sidelines due to an inability to contribute on special teams, second year running back C.J. Anderson has become the forgotten back in the replacement discussion for injured Montee Ball, who will miss a few weeks due to injury.

Ronnie Hillman, second on the depth chart all year, will be the starter in place of Ball, but the Broncos have seemingly shuffled around their running back depth behind Ball. It seemed in the early stages of the season that C.J. Anderson was the primary backup to Ball, carrying the ball 11 times for 55 yards in the team’s first three games.

Anderson showed some great burst and had even convinced some that he should be getting more carries than Ball because he was more efficient than Ball, averaging around five yards per carry. Everyone’s darling this year is Juwan Thompson, and for good reason. He ran hard in the preseason, he’s scored the only other rushing touchdown besides Montee Ball’s in the first game of the season, and he’s shown a willingness to do anything and everything he can to not only get on the field, but excel.

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Thompson deserves a shot, but with his knee limiting him significantly in practice this week, it could be Anderson who comes in, runs the hardest, and earns the coaches trust to pick up the tough yardage needed to be the featured back in this offense. The biggest key for him is going to be in pass protection. The Broncos appear to already have a bit of trust for Juwan Thompson in that regard, but C.J. Anderson has never really played a lot of passing downs. Catching passes and picking up blitzes are going to be a huge part of playing running back for the Broncos’ young players at that position.

Anderson spent an entire year in this system last year as an undrafted, unheralded rookie out of California. He was last year’s Juwan Thompson, essentially. Anytime things got rocky for the Broncos’ running game a year ago, the fans were calling for Anderson. The devil you don’t know is always preferred to the devil you do know. Except the Broncos aren’t dealing with anything devilish here. They are dealing with talented young players who have such a small sample size that most fans don’t know who to have hope for at this point. Most people feel like Ronnie Hillman’s history is not worth the risk of playing him over the guys who have shown promise in the preseason and limited carries they’ve received in the regular season. Fair enough, I suppose.

Call me crazy, but I think Anderson is going to be the guy who sees the most significant action down the stretch. I think the Broncos will call upon him for goal line work, and I think he can reclaim that #2 role in the offense if he seizes whatever carries he gets in relief of Ronnie Hillman. You hope to see all these guys do well, and the Broncos can simply keep a fresh back out there and get equally productive play all the time, but rarely is that the case. This is a very rare situation for two undrafted players separated by one year to be getting this kind of consideration for playing time in the best offense in the league.

Anderson better be ready just one week removed from being a healthy scratch against the Cardinals.