ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For much of the last two seasons, the Denver Broncos have lived the hot-hand life in the run game.
Running backs coach Eric Studesville, with a collection of backs he ranks every week for playing time but close enough in abilities to split the carries in some fashion, would roll them all through the huddle.
As he puts it: “It’s a gut feel, you look at the guys, look at where were are on offense, see how they’re running and you go from there."
Besides, when a team throws the ball as often as the Broncos have since Manning’s arrival in 2012, there aren’t always that many carries to go around.
Still, C.J. Anderson is now poised to have a stretch of games like the Broncos haven’t had since Manning’s inaugural season.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I just look at it like I need to get myself ready to handle whatever they ask me to do," Anderson said. “[Studesville] tells me to go in and I go in. He tells me to run it, I run it. If you need to block, you block, if you need to catch the ball, you catch the ball. And if you need to wait a bit to do it, you wait and stay ready."
With injuries to Montee Ball (right groin) and Ronnie Hillman (left foot), the sturdy Anderson might get a workload that resembles a primary-back approach like he did in Sunday’s win over the Miami Dolphins. Anderson had 27 carries for 167 yards -- both season-highs for a Broncos running back and easily career-bests for Anderson.
In Manning’s first season with the Broncos in 2012, the Broncos had five games in which a running back had at least 22 carries -- three of those by Willis McGahee and two by Knowshon Moreno. The Broncos had two such games in 2013. Moreno had both in back-to-back games with 27 carries for 79 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs followed by 37 carries for 224 yards against the Patriots the following week.
This season, with Ball, Hillman and Anderson having been at the top of the depth chart, the Broncos have had three games where a running back has had at least 22 carries. Two of the three have resulted in 100-yard games, with Anderson’s against the Dolphins to go with Hillman’s 24-carry, 100-yard day against the New York Jets.
“C.J.’s a baller," guard Orlando Franklin said. “He’s hungry out there ... I look forward to watching him as the weeks progress."
“Whatever’s working, keep it going," Anderson said. “... I think you just stick to your roles, keep your same routine, never get too big about it all and just continue to play hard."