CJ Anderson: A tale of three cities

A running back that appeared to be all but forgotten has put together one of the more impressive three-game stat lines in the NFL this season. To the Los Angeles Rams fortunes, CJ Anderson seems to have found a spark. This same spark that lead him to his only 1,000 yard season in 2017 for the Denver Broncos.

This season Anderson started off with the Carolina Panthers. The 27-year-old was not a vital part of the offense nor was he used to his full potential. Christian McCaffery, a talented back for good reason stood ahead of him on the depth chart. When they released Anderson and focused on CMC’s run game, the Panthers took off. This focus allowed McCaffery to have the touches he needed not only in the backfield, but also as a receiver.

Then, the Oakland Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch went down and Anderson found a new home. He worked with Doug Martin and Jalen Richard, while Anderson was a better combo running back. Getting rid of the third back also helped the Raiders, Martin was able to get the touches, he needed to be useful and sprinkling in Richard to keep him healthy. Anderson just did not seem like the back he was just a year prior. So what caused the fall?

What happened to CJ?

CJ Anderson has the condition that many running backs have now. This condition is known as a required amount of touches. Anderson is a slow starter. He needs to know that he is going to get a safe amount of carries and build up momentum.

When Anderson gets over 15 touches, he averages over 80 yards and over 4 yards per carry. Many running backs are often slow starters and need the confidence of a good coach. This can be seen in backs like Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones. A good offense is always healthy for the running back. It takes a special talent to succeed in a bad situation.

The Offense

The biggest part of Anderson’s success is the offense. The Los Angeles Rams are a very high-powered offense with a great leadrunning back in Todd Gurley. Gurley surpassed a 1,000 rushing yards in 12 games.

After Gurley sustained a knee injury in week 15, the Rams tried out there younger backs. Unfortunately, the Rams were not able to trust the inexperienced backs of John Kelly, Justin Brown and Malcolm Brown. Luckily, the Ram’s offense is in the top 5 in the NFL..

The short yardage player in Cooper Kupp was a safety net for Goff, until he went down with an ACL injury. Brandin Cooks is a talented player that shows spurts and can break loose for extra yardage. Then there is Goff’s favorite wide receiver Robert Woods. Woods often breaks away and is rarely well defended for an entire game.

Anderson’s Arrival

Many were stunned when the Eagles were able to handle the Rams in the regular season. This loss was even more stunning than the move they made just two days after the loss. On December 18, the Rams signed Anderson.

After seeing lack luster skill from the younger running backs, proved to be a great move for the Rams. He demolished the defenses of the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers. These games behind the stellar offensive line Anderson was able to find the gap and exploit the weaknesses.  In these games, he rushed for 299 yards.

What’s the difference?

Anderson has picked up the offense in a short period of time. Sean McVay trusts him in situations that he couldn’t trust the younger players in. The fact that Anderson is a patient runner allows him to fit into the offense. Anderson has a veteran status and has the talent. He also has shown McVay that he is a hard worker, smart and focused.

Anderson is doing something that no other back has ever done. He is the first player to have a 100 rushing yards and TD in his first three games with a team. There is a saying that fits Anderson perfectly – Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. This is the case of Anderson.

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