C.J. Anderson earned his place on the first team with a performance in the second half of the season that was more productive than all but one other running back in that span.When offseason workouts start, he will remain atop the depth chart at running back -- but only if he can maintain his performance and diligence.
"He made a big jump as a player, and I think he's earned the right to walk in to the offseason program -- the OTAs -- and line up as our starter," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "But he's got to continue to earn it on a daily basis.
"I think he's shown he has all the ability to be an excellent starter in this league, so we're really looking forward to working with him."
Anderson racked up 132.13 yards from scrimmage per game from Week 10 through the end of the regular season, only trailing Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell (153.0 yards per game) and his eight rushing touchdowns and 10 total touchdowns led all running backs in that span. His spurt sent him to the Pro Bowl.
But he will return to find his predecessors at running back at full strength. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman have recovered from groin and foot injuries, respectively, and will factor into the scramble for carries.
"All those guys are young. I think all three of those guys ... have all kind of had their little spurts of success with the club when they've had their opportunity," Kubiak said. "But they're all young. Who's going to be the bell cow, who's going to play every down, who's going to be the three-down player, they've got to sort that out. C.J. has shown the flashes of doing that."
Juwan Thompson, Jeremy Stewart and Kapri Bibbs, who spent last year on the practice squad, could also factor into the competition.
"We'll give them all a chance and see how it pans out, but C.J. obviously has a good head start on things," Kubiak said.
The competition could be fierce, but Anderson's success last year and his ability to translate that to a zone-blocking scheme gives him the early lead.
"All good players fit your system, and he's a good player," Kubiak said. "So we've got some good young backs, and it's going to be very competitive from that standpoint, but, yeah, he's proven that running zone schemes and doing those types of things seem to fit him very well."
Check out the top shots of the running backs, including C.J. Anderson's 51-yard catch-and-run in Oakland.