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Broncos Training Camp Day 3 Takeaways: C.J. Anderson ready for role in passing game

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --When C.J. Anderson exploded in the second half of the 2014 season, he wasn't simply an effective runner. He was a potent receiving target.

In fact, the signature play of his ascent from third-teamer to Pro Bowler was the 51-yard catch-and-run from Peyton Manning in Oakland that saw him break three open-field tackles en route to the end zone.

Anderson averaged 9.5 yards on his 34 receptions that year, moved the sticks on 38.2 percent of his receptions and picked up 27.6 percent of his yards from scrimmage via passes. He'd love to get back to that kind of production in an offense that some of his teammates have said will be "pass-happy."

To that end, Anderson has already caught touchdown passes in seven-on-seven red-zone periods from Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian, getting upfield to catch perfectly placed passes in the back of the end zone.

Just being asked about the possibility of catching more passes brought a smile to Anderson's face.

"I'm enjoying it. It's something that I haven't done in two years," he said. "It feels good to get back into it. I'm just glad my coaches trust me to run that and to prove that I can continue to keep doing that.

"It's something in my game that I knew I had and something I worked on all offseason. I just want to keep working."

To make this offense work, the quarterbacks need reliable targets to get open quickly out of the backfield. Anderson is well-suited for that role.

"Hopefully I'm running comebacks and trying to take D.T.'s job next," he said, laughing.

Demaryius Thomas need not worry. But if Anderson keeps making plays out of the backfield, he could give defenses plenty to think about, no matter who ends up firing the passes.

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  1. EDEBALI SETTLES IN**

Kasim Edebali began his work on the first team at outside linebacker in place of the injured Shane Ray on Saturday morning, and the defense didn't miss a step, continuing to generate pressure as it had the previous two days.

"We signed Edebali because he is a relentless rusher," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "So far, he's showed that. He's a hard worker and he's a hard body. Until Shane and Shaq [Barrett] are back, he'll be fine."

Edebali made the most of minimal defensive snaps with the Saints, and if he can avoid injury over the next few weeks, he could be in line for the most playing time of his career.

"Kasim can be a monster," said right tackle Menelik Watson, who has faced him in one-on-one and team-period drills. "I think he can be whatever he puts his mind to. The kid has got incredible girth and he's got incredible intelligence, great hands, great feet. He's putting it together and he's only going to get better."

2. COULD VON MILLER'S PRESEASON WORKLOAD CHANGE?

"Absolutely," acknowledged Joseph.

Injuries to Ray and Barrett leave the Broncos with only two players who have started NFL games at outside linebacker: Miller and Edebali, who has two career starts, including one last year. Vontarrius Dora, who spent most of last year on the practice squad after posting two sacks in the 2016 preseason, is the next reserve behind Edebali.

Joseph said that he discussed Miller's preseason repetitions with President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway on Friday night in the wake of the news that Ray would miss six to eight weeks.

"Maybe it's very few [repetitions]," Joseph said.

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  1. 'HOLISTIC' APPROACH HELPS WATSON**

One reason that Watson said he picked the Broncos in free agency was because of their athletic training staff and its methods. Injuries dogged Watson during his four seasons in Oakland, and he expects that a different regimen will allow him to avoid the issues that have cost him the practice and game repetitions he needs to improve as he continues to learn the sport he only took up seven years ago.

"I think I lifted more this offseason than in the past and I can definitely notice the difference," Watson said. "This holistic approach to the body as well is really improving the core and the little things that you might miss sometimes. I've been very happy."

Watson has been lifting more, but also losing weight. He wants to play at between 315 and 320 pounds, and he believes that can help him avoid further injuries.

"It's always been my plan," he said. "I've always tried to get lighter. I just packed on muscle really easily so I was really big. I'm trying to get down, get in shape and get down a little bit.

"When I came into the game, I was about 320-315 and I'm just trying to get back down to that to avoid some of the soft tissue stuff that was happening. I'm taking a different approach to football."

And a different approach to training, thanks to the Broncos' staff and the ability to work at 5,280 feet above sea level.

"This altitude as well, I love it," he said. "You kind of struggle to breathe and it's a different kind of training but I love it. It gives you motivation to push yourself a bit more. You know the better shape you get in here then it'll be a lot easier when you go somewhere else."

4. DON'T GET TOO CAUGHT UP IN THE DAY-TO-DAY UPS AND DOWNS AT QB

While what takes place for Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch each day matters, it's important to remember that it's all part of a body of work.

"It's not going to change daily," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "That's important because you don't want to leave here every day thinking Paxton [Lynch] is the guy and tomorrow Trevor is the guy. We can't do that. It has to be a collective evaluation over time.

"That's why time is a good thing because now we can have a full evaluation of both guys."

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