On Now
Coming Up
  • There are no Events to display in this category.

News

Print
RSS

Why signing C.J. Anderson made too much sense not to happen

Posted May 7, 2018

The Panthers needed a complement to Christian McCaffrey. It just so happened a guy who rushed for 1,000 yards last season was available.

Marty Hurney could have just said, “Of course we’re going to add a running back,” but what fun would that have been?

Instead, as the 2018 NFL Draft was wrapping up last month, Carolina's general manager dropped a hard-to-miss hint when a reporter pointed out the Panthers hadn’t addressed their obvious opening for a power back.

“Not so far,” Hurney quipped. “Again, that’s something that we keep looking at and we’ll continue to look at. Every draft is different, and they all break different ways.” 

And this draft broke a way in which the backs Carolina coveted never fell to them and would’ve cost too much to move up to get. Fast forward nine days, and it almost looks like Hurney had a plan. 

Here’s why signing C.J. Anderson was a no-brainer Plan B. 

McCaffrey complement 

Christian McCaffrey held up pretty well as a rookie, but he’s not an ideal bell cow in a power run game. The backfield needs a timeshare, and before Monday, the only other experienced backs on the roster were Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker. Artis-Payne will still have a chance to carve out a bigger role than he had his first three seasons, but the Panthers couldn’t put all their eggs in his basket. 

Enter Anderson. 

The 5-foot-8, 224-pounder has a powerful, downhill running style similar to the departed Jonathan Stewart. But the 27-year-old Anderson is four years younger, has 1,000 fewer carries on his legs and caught 103 passes the past four years. Stewart caught only 57. 

So even though Anderson can, he isn’t just a guy who can run you over. And isn’t that the type of back head coach Ron Rivera described a couple of months ago? 

“I wouldn’t say you need to have a guy like Jonathan. You go back and look at what (Norv Turner) did with LaDainian (Tomlinson), what he had with Frank Gore when he was in San Francisco – he’s had dynamic guys that are multi-faceted,” Rivera said at February’s combine. “They can run the ball inside and outside; they can catch the ball out of the backfield and pass protect.” 

Ah, yes, pass protection – something we almost never talk about when it comes to running backs. Well, according to Pro Football Focus, Anderson ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season in “pass blocking efficiency” with a 97.4 rating – a full two points ahead of the next closest running back. 

Chip on shoulder 

Sure, chip on the shoulder stuff is cliché, but it’s easy to see why Anderson has one. 

A junior college transfer, he went undrafted in 2013 after two seasons at Cal. Twenty-two backs were drafted that year. Only one from the 2013 class has more yards than Anderson (Steelers three-time Pro Bowler Le’Veon Bell.)

Now Anderson has another reason to dwell on the doubters. Denver cut him last month in a cost-cutting move, so he'll be looking to prove plenty during the one-year deal he just signed.

Great when on field

The biggest knock on Anderson is availability. He's been productive when on the field, but injuries have been an issue.

In 2013, a sprained MCL in the preseason limited him to five games and seven touches. 

In 2014, he stayed healthy and made the Pro Bowl with 1,173 combined yards and 10 touchdowns. 

In 2015, he was slowed by an ankle injury and turf toe, but finished strong with 903 total yards. 

In 2016, knee surgery ended his season after just seven games.

Last year was the first Anderson played all 16 games. He rushed for 1,007 yards. The Panthers haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Stewart and DeAngelo Williams both eclipsed 1K in 2009. 

But wait, there’s more. 

Since 2014, 20 running backs have attempted at least 600 carries. Anderson's 4.39 yards per tote ranks fourth behind Mark Ingram (4.72), Bell (4.54) and LeSean McCoy (4.46).

And the Panthers have seen firsthand how effective Anderson can be. In Super Bowl 50 he had 27 touches for 100 yards and a touchdown. In the 2016 season opener a few months later, he totaled 139 yards and scored twice.

Won’t count toward comp formula

The comp pick formula can be super confusing, but this one’s not hard to flush out. 

Only unrestricted free agents count for or against teams as far as comp picks go. Because Anderson was released by the Broncos, he wasn’t in the unrestricted category. So he won’t count against the Panthers, who are still set up to get a third-round comp pick in the 2019 draft. 


Marty Hurney could’ve just said, “Of course we’re going to add a running back,” but what fun would that have been?
Instead, as the 2018 NFL Draft was wrapping up last month, Carolina's general manager dropped a hard-to-miss hint. 
“Not so far,” quipped Hurney when a reporter pointed out the Panthers hadn’t addressed their obvious opening for a power back. “Again, that’s something that we keep looking at and we’ll continue to look at. Every draft is different and they all break different ways.” 
And this draft broke a way in which the backs Carolina coveted never fell to them and would’ve cost too much to move up to get. Fast forward nine days, and it almost looks like Hurney had a plan. 
Here’s why signing C.J. Anderson was a no-brainer Plan B. 
McCaffrey Complement 
Christian McCaffrey held up pretty well as a rookie, but he’s not a bell-cow in a power run game. The backfield needs a timeshare, and before Monday, the only other backs on the roster were Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker. Artis-Payne will still have a chance to carve out a bigger role than he had his first three seasons, but the Panthers couldn’t put all their eggs in his basket. 
Enter Anderson. 
The 5-foot-8, 224-pounder has a powerful, downhill running style similar to the departed Jonathan Stewart. But Anderson is four years younger, has 1,000 fewer carries on his legs and caught 103 passes the past four years. Stewart caught only 57. 
So even though he can, Anderson isn’t just a guy who can run you over. And isn’t that the type of back head coach Ron Rivera described a couple of months ago? 
“I wouldn’t say you need to have a guy like Jonathan. You go back and look at what (Norv Turner) did with LaDainian (Tomlinson), what he had with Frank Gore when he was in San Francisco – he’s had dynamic guys that are multi-faceted,” Rivera said at February’s combine. “They can run the ball inside and outside; they can catch the ball out of the backfield and pass protect.” 
Ah, yes, pass protection – something we almost never talk about when it comes to running backs. Well, according to Pro Football Focus, Anderson ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season in “pass blocking efficiency.” The next closest back was a full two points behind Anderson. 
Chip on Shoulder 
Sure, chip on the shoulder stuff is cliché, but it’s easy to see why Anderson has one. 
A junior college transfer, he went undrafted in 2013 after two seasons at Cal. 22 backs were drafted that year. Since then, only one has rushed for more yards than Anderson, and that’s Steelers three-time Pro Bowler Le’Veon Bell. 
Now Anderson has another reason to dwell on the doubters. After Denver cut him last month in a cost-cutting move, it stands to reason he’d like a prove-it deal like the one-year contract he just got in Carolina. 
Great When on Field
The biggest knock on Anderson is availability. He’s been productive when on the field. Injuries have been a problem, though. 
In 2013, a sprained MCL in the preseason limited him to five games and seven touches. 
In 2014, he stayed healthy and made the Pro Bowl with 1,173 combined yards and 10 touchdowns. 
In 2015, he was slowed by an ankle injury and turf toe, but finished strong and with 903 total yards. 
In 2016, knee surgery ended his season after just seven games.
Last year was the first he played all 16 games. He rushed for 1,007 yards. The Panthers haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Stewart and DeAngelo Williams both eclipsed 1K in 2009. 
But wait, there’s more. 
Since 2014, 20 running back have attempted at least 600 carries. Anderson's 4.39 yards per tote ranks fourth behind Mark Ingram (4.72), Bell (4.54) and LeSean McCoy (4.46).
And the Panthers have seen first-hand how effective Anderson can be. In Super Bowl 50 he had 27 touches for 100 yards and a touchdown. In the 2016 season opener a few months later, he totaled 139 yards and scored twice. 
Won’t Count Toward Comp Pick
The comp pick formula can be super confusing, but this one’s not hard to flush out. 
Only unrestricted free agents count for or against teams as far as comp picks go. Again, Anderson was released by the Broncos, so he wasn’t in the unrestricted category. So he won’t count against the Panthers, who are still set up to get a third-round comp pick in the 2019 draft.