SANTA CLARA, Calif. —** Broncos running back and Bay Area native C.J. Anderson bounced back before family and friends after his concussion last week, contributing to Denver's 34-point scoring onslaught amid a comprehensive offensive and defensive performance.
His adjustment after the injury during the Broncos' first preseason game would of course be a process, beginning with the NFL's steps to returning to the field, which include passing multiple examinations. He did so in a cautious and timely manner, and changed up the helmet he wears to take further preventative measures.
His new helmet rates as a five-star in the helmet safety rating scale developed by the Virginia Tech and Wake Forest School of Bioengineering and Sciences.
It was a tight fit in those first days back at training camp, but on Sunday after the game he said that it feels much more comfortable now. "It took some time to break it in and after breaking it in, especially during the game, I didn't feel anything."
Even after taking a wallop on a second-quarter run, he popped back up without hesitation. The hit had some people on the sideline concerned, he said, but in his words, "I just got back in there and felt great."
It showed as he rushed for 29 yards to lead the team's running game, with a touchdown to cap the first half -- and in front of his family, no less.
"It always feels good, and I know I got family out there I gotta go see," Anderson said. "I love the Bay Area; It's where I'm from. It's good I can put this on in front of my family and friends."
"I love road games and I love being home: Two birds, one stone."
The Broncos as a team, however, had just one bird, and they got it with six stones: four touchdowns and two field goals.
Denver's offense, though led by an air attack that proved difficult to stop or slow down, had a pretty even scoring distribution with each quarterback tossing a touchdown, and with Anderson's own score on the ground.
Preseason is often a proving ground or time for improvement, and the offense made some good strides, as Peyton Manning noted.
"That's kind of what Coach Fox, that's what he stressed to the team last week: Make some improvements, get better in certain phases. I thought we did that, certainly offensively," Manning said.
Manning was stellar in the two drives he led, completing all but two of his 14 passing attempts and throwing one touchdown. But Brock Osweiler was also great behind center with 105 passing yards on 10-for-13 passing and one touchdown. He also got a chance to take a new step in his own improvement, seeing time in a two-minute drill.
"Not too often does a second-string or third-string quarterback get the opportunity to run a two-minute drill in a game, so for that to come up was huge. It's another big step in my growth process," Osweiler said. "I think the biggest thing is getting better every week."
Osweiler's words can be extended to the entire team as they continue to progress throughout the remaining preseason practices and games. From Peyton cultivating more chemistry with the rest of offense to C.J. Anderson developing further and bolstering depth in the running game.
With the team improving, Head Coach John Fox thinks the team is "getting readier." He said after the game that the Broncos still have work to do. "I'm not saying we're not ready, but, you know, we still have two more preseason games as we prepare […] and we're going to take full advantage of that time to improve and evaluate our football team."
"The challenge every week in the preseason is to improve some areas I thought the guys responded to," Fox said.
With two more games to go before preseason concludes, the Broncos' further potential improvement could have them in a very bright spot.