From the sting of a tough loss against the Indianpolis Colts on Sunday Night Football emerges an opportunity for Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson.
The poor play of Denver’s running backs was impossible to ignore. Knowshon Moreno was ineffective and failed to pick up multiple 3rd-and-1 opportunities. Ronnie Hillman, a far more effective runner over the course of the game, fumbled on the goal-line late in the 4th quarter. That fumble not only cost the Broncos a chance to win the game; it might have also cost Hillman his spot on the active roster for this week’s game against the Washington Redskins.
Enter Anderson, the star of the 2013 preseason for the Broncos. Even with all the nuances and qualifiers that accompany success in NFL preseason games, there is notable excitement about Anderson‘s play and the fact that he is finally getting a chance.
Focus on yards-per-carry, which is the area of the team that the Broncos need Anderson to improve. So far this season Moreno is at a solid 4.3 YPC, Monte Ball is running at a clip of 3.2 YPC, and Hillman is at 4.6 YPC (stats from ProFootballFocus). Each of these backs have been productive at various points of the season, but inconsistency and fumbles have prevented any of them from taking over the job or giving the coaches no choice but to keep giving them carries.
Ball was supposed to be the running back who specialized in running the ball (as silly as that sounds). Moreno is the all-around back, the guy who knows the offense and is solid in pass protection. Hillman is the “home run hitter” and a weapon in the passing game. Ball was supposed to be the guy who consistently picked up big chunks of yard running the ball, six or seven yards a clip at the moments when the Broncos need to pick up yards on the ground and loosen things up for the passing game.
There will be opportunities to run for chunks of yards in this offense. Quarterback Peyton Manning will read the defense and put his backs in spots to succeed, and there will be some big holes because of all of the weapons in the passing game. To date no running back has fully taken advantage of that opportunity, or become the “hot hand” in the running game.
When he gets his chance, the Denver Broncos need C.J. Anderson to become that runner. And please, for goodness sake, do not fumble the football.