C.J. Anderson: Denver Broncos’ Starting Runningback?


C.J. Anderson ran with authority in Sunday’s win over the New England Patriots, finishing with 113 yards and two touchdowns; thus, did he earn the starting job moving forward?

The Denver Broncos’ rushing attack looked underwhelming for the majority of the season; however, over the past two weeks, C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman helped lead the Broncos to back-to-back 100-yard performances. Through the first 12 weeks of the season, the Denver Broncos rank 17th in the NFL with 102.1 rushing yards per contest. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak named Ronnie Hillman the starter at runningback heading into week 11’s matchup against the Chicago Bears, but did C.J. Anderson reclaim the starting job after he stellar performance against the New England Patriots?

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Through the first six weeks of the season, C.J. Anderson failed to get anything going on the ground and raised doubts about his breakout 2014-2015 campaign. C.J. Anderson struggled to find any running room, resulting in no touchdowns through the first six weeks. Moreover, Anderson averaged just 30 rushing yards per game, despite garnering over 11 touches per game. After the Denver Broncos’ week-seven bye, C.J. Anderson put together his best game, up to this point of the season, rushing for 101 yards on 14 carries, and he added a touchdown reception in the contest.

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C.J. Anderson looked like he found his groove, but the following two weeks were, arguably, Anderson’s worst games of the season. The two weeks following C.J. Anderson’s breakout week-eight game, Anderson rushed for 43 yards on nine carries, and Kubiak looked to change things up in the backfield. Entering the Denver Broncos’ week 11 matchup against the Chicago Bears, Kubiak named Ronnie Hillman the starter, and he did not disappoint in his first start of the season. Hillman rushed for 102 yards on 21 carries, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. With Hillman’s impressive game, he looked like the clear-cut favorite to head the backfield against the Patriots the following week.

Despite Hillman’s strong performance against the Bears, C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman split the carries evenly against the New England Patriots, with Hillman carrying the ball 14 times against Anderson’s 15 carries. Although the two received relatively even touches, C.J. Anderson did more with his opportunity. C.J. Anderson finished the game with 15 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns, including a walk-off 48-yard touchdown run in overtime to beat the Patriots. On the other hand, Ronnie Hillman rushed for 59 yards on 14 carries.

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  • With C.J. Anderson putting together his best game of the season, Gary Kubiak is in a situation where he needs to decide who to start against the Chargers. Starting Anderson presents its perks; however, Kubiak might decide to split the carries once again. Hillman and Anderson provide different types of running for the Denver Broncos. Anderson is more of a bell-cow back, capable of running between the tackles and taking short-yardage situations; while, Hillman is the more shifty back, capable of making big plays with his cutting ability. However, in the game against the Patriots, C.J. Anderson showed that he possesses big-play ability after his game-winning rushing touchdown.

    C.J. Anderson provided the Denver Broncos’ offense with some much-needed rushing yards, and he deserves the start this week against the San Diego Chargers. However, Anderson likely sees the same amount of touches as Hillman, but he might receive slightly more due to his impressive performance last week. Ever since Brock Osweiler was named starter, the Denver Broncos’ rushing attack saw an uptick in performance, and it is not a coincidence. Peyton Manning lacks big-play ability this season, and defenses never feared the deep ball from Manning. Thus, Osweiler is the better candidate for Kubiak’s system. 

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    With Osweiler’s big arm, opposing defenses, once again, fear the Denver Broncos’ passing attack. Thus, with defenses having to keep the Broncos’ passing game in check, it allows the run-game to have more room to work with, resulting in Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson posting back-to-back 100-yard games. This marked the first time all season that the Broncos’ had 100-yard rushing games from a single runningback (Hillman with 102 in week 11 and Anderson with 113 in week 12). The Denver Broncos need to continue to run the ball effectively in an effort to provide Osweiler a balanced attack.

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    The San Diego Chargers’ defense presents a favorable matchup for the Denver Broncos’ backfield. The Chargers currently rank 26th in the NFL, giving up nearly 124 rushing yards per game. Coach Kubiak has not stated who the starting running back is for the upcoming week, but C.J. Anderson provides the more viable solution due to his breakout game last week. With a 48-yard game-winning touchdown, C.J. Anderson earned the chance to build off of his strong performance against the Patriots. Only time will tell who Kubiak starts this upcoming week; however, Anderson looks to be the favorite.