If you thought the Denver Broncos had a good offense last season, wait until you see the 2014 version.
This year, the Broncos look to be setting their sights on a more physical, balanced rushing attack. The move of Orlando Franklin to guard and the selection of wide receiver Cody Latimer in the second round are signs of that.
Latimer is an excellent blocker, and Franklin should be able to use his size to push defensive linemen backwards.
Peyton Manning posted astounding numbers in the passing game last season, but he doesn't need to set records for the offense to be better. A more physical, unpredictable offensive system could put any defense in the NFL on their heels given the weapons in Denver.
However, it will all start with the rushing attack.
Montee Ball should be in line for a huge season as the team's new feature back, but there is plenty of room behind him for a player to step up and become a key contributor this season.
Look no further than C.J. Anderson.
Anderson was used sparingly during his rookie season, but as an undrafted rookie, the odds were against him to even make the team. The Broncos saw something they liked, and Anderson even saw some action in the regular season.
With Ball and Knowshon Moreno both playing well last season, the Broncos didn't need to have Anderson do much. But with Moreno gone, there is a big hole in the Denver backfield.
Anderson may be the prime candidate to seize that role.
Though Anderson was only given seven carries during the regular season, he looked very good in his only extended action as a rookie—the team's preseason opener against San Francisco.
Yes, he was working against backups, but Anderson was still able to showcase some of the talent that led him to make the roster after going undrafted.
On a Denver drive in the third quarter of that game, Anderson gained 17 yards on a burst up the middle. Two plays later, he showed his ability to get to the outside, bouncing one out for 13 more yards.
In the fourth quarter, with third-string quarterback Zac Dysert lined up in the shotgun formation, Anderson took the handoff and rattled off 11 more yards. This play has been a staple of the Denver offense.
Anderson finished as the game's leading rusher, collecting 69 yards on 15 carries.
Fans who question what Anderson is capable will have all their answers by the time Denver wraps up the preseason this year.
In studying Anderson, a few things pop out.
He runs with a tremendous sense of determination. Using a low pad level, Anderson shows a downhill style and hits the hole hard.
But he also shows a lot of patience, letting his blocks develop in front of him. Anderson also demonstrates good anticipation and rarely is tackled for a loss.
In pass protection, he may not be the best blocking back in the league, but he certainly isn't bad. This is a key element in the Denver offense, and Anderson can get better through coaching.
As a receiver, Anderson only caught 22 passes in college. However, he only played in 25 games and wasn't asked to do it often.
Still, he made some huge plays as a receiver, including snagging a pass out of the air with one hand and racing for a long touchdown against Ohio State.
Manning likes a running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield, and this is an area of his game that has some promise.
The biggest bonus with Anderson is the fact that Denver doesn't need him to be great right now. If he isn't the No. 2 running back this season, all that means is that Ronnie Hillman stepped up and secured the spot.
The Broncos would probably prefer that, given the fact that Hillman was a third-round draft pick just two years ago. With that said, it will be hard for him to overcome the surging Anderson.
Anderson runs harder, sees the holes better and has the makeup of what the Broncos are trying to become—a more physical team.
A key for Denver in 2014 will be lining up and running the ball right at a defense. Last season, many of their run plays were either plays they audibled to or runs out of the shotgun formation.
This season, a more straight ahead, smashmouth style will make a defense like Seattle's have to rethink their strategy in defending the Broncos.
Anderson fits the mold, and unless he develops a fumbling problem like the one that cost Hillman playing time last year, he could easily be the backup to Ball going forward.
ESPN's Jeff Legwold doesn't seem to think all that highly of Anderson. In fact, he doesn't even think he'll make the roster. It seems the Broncos would have to have some very impressive play from more than one undrafted rookie for that to happen.
Anderson was a player hoping to make a roster last year. Now he is a player hungry for a substantial increase in playing time.
He won't be denied.
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