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Three Reasons Denver Broncos RB C.J. Anderson Is Poised To Break Out In 2016

The Broncos paid C.J. Anderson but something tells us that we've yet to see him reach his full potential. Adam Uribes details why Anderson is poised for a breakout year.

As soon as pen was put to paper and C.J. Anderson signed a four-year, $18 million contract that would keep him in a Denver Bronco uniform for the foreseeable future, expectations were sure to follow.  This is to be expected, as Anderson was an early candidate to be a breakout player to watch for in 2015 and a fulcrum for an offense that would be built more on his legs, while protecting future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning.

The early returns were mixed, as Anderson lost his job to the rejuvenated Ronnie Hillman, looking less and less like the player who burst on to the scene in 2014 late in the year, earning a Pro Bowl nod. But just like in 2014, Anderson would prove to be the horse the running game was looking for, coming alive down the stretch and finishing with a touchdown plunge to cap off a Super Bowl Championship. 

With the start of the season fast coming up, Anderson is once again poised to take the mantle of great Denver running backs.  Will he be more Terrell Davis, Floyd Little or Mike Anderson? Or will he be more like Sammy Winder or Rod Bernstine?  Here are three reasons why Anderson is ready to be the next star on offense for the Orange and Blue.

No. 1: Second Year In The System

This will be the second full season that Anderson will be in the zone-blocking scheme Denver employs, and it is important to comprehend how important that is. Take a look at former Bronco great, Terrell Davis. Davis had a little over 1,100 yards his rookie season in 14 games—solid numbers for sure.

In the next season we saw Davis' rushing total jump 400-plus yards, as well as seeing more time on third down in pass protection. One coach even remarked that that C.J. was making cuts in OTAs that looked like they should be losses, only to see the running back find daylight and burst through the line of scrimmage. 

We can also look at his stats after the bye week last season, and aside from a road loss, Anderson averaged over four yards-per-carry as further proof that as the nuances of the scheme were picked up, the running game with Anderson prospered.

No. 2: Improved O-Line

As I have mentioned before, the offensive line will look drastically different with potentially four different starters, which will be a much better fit to execute the zone-blocking scheme. Imagine an offensive line that has two ailing guards that are too banged up to practice consistently to go along with a third and fourth string tackle, and you can guess that the running game would sputter at times.

Barring any kind of injury like the one that befell Ryan Clady last year, this year's offensive line had a chance to spend the bulk of the time in OTAs together, which is a huge boost in continuity and also lets the group gel together. 

Additionally, there is better depth at the guard and tackle spots, so if an injury should occur, the talent drop off won’t be as steep.  Going from Russell Okung to a more experienced Ty Sambrailo doesn’t look as bad as going from Ryan Clady to Ryan Harris.

No. 3: Kubiak's Offense Finally Unleashed

This year’s offense will be based more on the strengths of the personnel that is in place, different from last year where there was a failed attempt to blend the principles of a ball control offense with the shotgun-heavy, Manning-driven scheme. It never really clicked.

Anderson has the potential to be a throwback three-down back. I can still see his huge catch and run against Oakland in 2014 and point to that as a barometer of his receiving prowess. With the career year that Joe Flacco had in 2014, as well as the Houston offense’s success under his charge, coach Gary Kubiak is adept at playing to the strengths of the personnel he has at his disposal. With a ball-control quarterback and a defense that should be at the level of, or better than, a year before, this team is built to be a bit more rugged and controlled than last year. Instead of seeing an offense that was depending on turnovers and breaks here and there, expect to see an offense that will ride C.J. for 10 and 12-play drives. 

This will also mean more of a screen passing game threat—which was underutilized last year—instead having Anderson split out wide too much, asking him to be more of a decoy, rather than a true receiving option.  With the threat of the screen, as well as Texas-routes or simple swing passing, this will allow Anderson to put a foot on the ground and get downhill, which plays much better to his strengths and makes the offense more efficient.

The Denver Broncos offense of this year will be different than in years past and I believe that will be a good thing.  In an offense that was built for running backs like Anderson to be successful, expect the former California Golden Bear to be in the top half of the league in rushing and total yards. 

With a better grasp of the blocking scheme in place, better blockers in front of him and a coach that molds his offense to the talents of his players, expect to see the second-half C.J. Anderson from bell-to-bell this season and the transformation of a good player to a great player in the process. 

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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