The NFL is a production-based business. Every player is held to the "what have you done for me lately?" ethos.
Quarterbacks bear the brunt of that reality especially, but running backs do too. The modern league has minimized the value of running backs to the point that you rarely see one drafted in the first round anymore.
C.J. Anderson never heard his name called on Draft Day. He carries that chip on his shoulder.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1719434-go-premium-sports-illustr... “I’ve got nothing to lose," Anderson said Thursday. "I wasn’t supposed to be here. I wasn’t supposed to be in this position or this spot. I ain’t got nothing to lose. [Colts S] Mike Adams told me, Pops told me, my rookie year, ‘You can go out there and make 10 great plays and one bad play and that’s why you were undrafted.’ Other guys, they can go out there and make 10 bad plays and one amazing play and that’s why they were drafted."
In the midst of a two-game slide, the noise outside of Denver Broncos headquarters perceives Anderson, and his team, with their backs against the wall. Anderson has yet to tally a 100-yard rushing game in 2016 and the offense as a whole hasn't eclipsed that mark in more than a month.
All the while, rookie fourth-rounder Devontae Booker has seemingly overcome poor offensive line execution and questionable play design to produce. Last week in Denver's 21-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers, Booker averaged 9.2 yards per carry, while Anderson managed 3.7 with twice as many carries.
When people outside the building are noticing that the backup seems to be creating more than the starter, with less opportunities, you know the coaches have deduced the same. Head coach Gary Kubiak said earlier this week that Booker can expect a bigger workload.
VIDEO: Does Devontae Booker Deserve More Touches?
“When he’s had some opportunities, he’s done some really good things,” Kubiak said. “As a young player, we’re trying to get him going as far as (pass) protection and those type of things. He’s starting to handle himself better. I think he deserves some more opportunities to touch the football.”
The pressure is on Anderson and the offense to produce but he's letting it fall like water off a duck's back.
“I’m fine. No pressure at all," Anderson said. "We’re glad ‘Book’ is coming along. We all know that ‘Book’ is a special guy and a special player. We know that he can make plays. He’s going to have that opportunity, he’s going to have a lot more opportunities to make plays, which is great. There’s nothing wrong in the National Football League when two running backs can make plays. I’m actually happy that he’s coming along, I’ve been helping him through the whole way. I’m just glad he’s here.”
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1717892-film-room-why-booker-is-e... Booker came into mini-camp earlier this year motivated to not only make the team, but to "take somebody's job". You can argue he accomplished that goal when the Broncos released Ronnie Hillman.
With an uptick in touches on the horizon, Booker has an opportunity to really make Denver's running back situation interesting. However, we shouldn't sell Anderson short. In his young career, Anderson has proven that he performs best when the chips are down.
"I ain’t got nothing to lose," he said. "When my back is against the wall, I just find a way to rise up and play my best."
For Anderson, and Booker, to truly "rise up", they need their big boys up front to execute and get back to playing fundamentally sound football. With 11 days between games, the Broncos have focused on getting back to basics and bolstering communication in the trenches.
That should pay dividends for both of Denver's running backs when the Houston Texans come to town.
But for those pining for Devontae Booker, don't count C.J. Anderson out quite yet.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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