<
>

Lack of early-season success has weighed on a now lighter C.J. Anderson

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In the end, the calendar demanded a change.

For all running back C.J. Anderson has done with the Denver Broncos, he does not have a career 100-yard rushing game before Nov. 1 in any of his three previous seasons.

When the Broncos matched a four-year, $18 million offer sheet to keep Anderson, when the Miami Dolphins tried to pry him away, the expectation is he won’t be late to the proverbial run-game party.

“I just want to come in, I want to start faster,’’ Anderson said. “That’s something I talked about with [Broncos coach Gary Kubiak] and (running backs) coach (Eric) Studesville. They felt like I hit my peak after the bye week last year.’’

After the bye week in the 2015 season, Anderson rushed for 101 yards on just 14 carries in the Broncos’ dominating win in Week 8 over the Green Bay Packers. Four games later, he had 113 yards rushing in the Broncos’ key win over the New England Patriots, a game that went a long way to positioning the Broncos to play the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots in Denver.

Anderson had 95 yards rushing in the regular-season finale against the Chargers and ended up with 90 yards rushing in the Super Bowl.

In 2014, it was much the same as Anderson had reported for offseason workouts at “240-something’’ pounds and found himself third on the depth chart. By the time Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman suffered injuries that enabled Anderson to get on the field, the pages had flipped to November.

Anderson had his two best rushing performances of his career in back-to-back weeks in November that season -- 167 yards rushing against the Miami Dolphins and 168 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs. It all means Anderson is currently trying to get things going earlier in the football year.

“Waaaayyyy better,’’ Anderson said when asked if his conditioning was better this year than last, as well as better than when he arrived as a undrafted rookie in 2013. “I’ve never come back at playing weight, so I’m excited about that. I’m leaning up.

"I think it’s maturity -- I learned every year. After my rookie year I came back at 240-something, then last year … I came back at, like, 225, 224 -- they were happy upstairs. This year I think it’s better to come back to OTAs at playing weight.’’

And that playing weight, Anderson said, is “anywhere between 218 and 221 (pounds) is where I need to be.’’ Anderson said following Tuesday’s OTA workout that he was currently at 221 pounds.

“He’s looked good and that’s what you want to see," Kubiak said. “ … We think he’s going to be a big reason we can have a big year."

The Broncos showed just how intent they are about pumping up a run game that finished a rather pedestrian 17th in the league last season after a crawl up from the bottom of the rankings early in the season when they matched the offer sheet for Anderson. They then re-signed Hillman and used a sixth-round draft pick on fullback Andy Janovich.

“(We’re) adding the fullback element, so I’m going to have to learn that,’’ Anderson said. “ … I’m doing a great job watching the (video) of those teams.’’

Anderson figures, even with Hillman’s return and the selection of running back Devontae Booker with a fourth-round pick, to be in line to crack the 200-carry barrier and be the every-down, go-to guy at the position this coming season.

"I don’t think I’m to that level yet," Anderson said. "But can I get there? Hell yeah, I believe in my ability and what I can do. But I still come out every day and fight like there’s 22 running backs in front of me.’’