In racing, there are two different types of horses. There are front-runners, who get out early and set the pace for the rest of the field, and closers—a horse that runs with the pack and makes its move later on. In the past two seasons that C.J. Anderson has been running the ball for the Denver Broncos, he has been more of a closer than a front-runner, finishing out seasons strong but not getting out of the gates quickly.
With the offense needing to be more balanced early in the season to help the young Trevor Siemian make the transition to starting smoothly, Anderson will be called on to set the tone early. In the first game against the formidable front seven of the Carolina Panthers, Anderson took a step in the right direction, scoring two touchdowns—one on a tough goal-line plunge and another on a brilliant screen pass out of the backfield.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1704845-5-takeaways-broncos-21-pa... Anderson was the primary back most of the night and would account for 139 all-purpose yards, coming up with big runs or catches to keep the new-look Denver offense on the move. On the momentum-changing touchdown catch he had in the third quarter, Anderson gave his account after the game.
"It’s a look that we saw last year during film of the Super Bowl," Anderson said. "We know when we got down in the red-zone area that we thought it’d be a good play. I’m known to be a decent, or OK, or good, I don’t want to put too much on me, pass blocker, and I had some protections tonight. We just had a feeling when we got that look. We got the screen called, and I did enough to make it look like I was really blocking [Panthers LB] Thomas Davis and just slipped out. The rest was in the end zone. It was a great block by our O-linemen, but it was a really great block by D.T. [Demaryius Thomas] down by the goal line to get me in.”
When asked if he was running with more emotion during this year, he explained that it’s more of a change in mind set.
“Just the mentality," Anderson said. "It’s our second year in the system and now we understand what we’re really trying to get done. That’s a good thing. I’m not thinking as much when I’m out there, I’m playing. I definitely left some plays out there, but the goal is to be consistent. Not just show up on prime-time nights like I’ve done in the past, but to be consistent.”
Head coach Gary Kubiak was also quick to point out the steps Anderson has taken in shouldering the load as the main running back on the roster.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1704596-broncos-made-a-statement-... “I’ve always been a big believer, through my years with Mike [Shanahan]," Kubiak said. "Especially, when guys have good camps, they play well. C.J. had a great camp. He didn’t miss a day of practice. D.T. had a great camp. You look at players that are there every day in training camp and go through the six weeks. It’s just something about that carry over. With that being in mind, to me, C.J. is off to a great start.”
It's still early in the year but C.J. Anderson is beginning to prove that the team was right to reward him with a contract extension this past offseason. Coming into training camp in great shape and avoiding the nagging injuries that have been problematic for him in the past is helping Anderson explode out of the gates.
Anderson has always had the potential of being a three-down running back, but with the first game in the books, he took a big step in making good on that potential. He's big and physical enough to be a grinder on first and second down, while at the same time being a good enough receiver that he can either stay in the backfield to help with pass protections or split out like a wideout on obvious passing downs.
This season is already shaping up to be different for C.J. Anderson, as he looks to both a front-runner and closer for the 2016 Broncos.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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