An undrafted college free agent has made Denver's Week 1 roster in each of the last nine seasons. C.J. Anderson aims to keep that streak going.
The former University of California running back has been the untold story of the Broncos' training camp, toiling as he has behind second-round draft pick Montee Ball, second-year speedster Ronnie Hillman and former first-rounder Knowshon Moreno in Denver's dynamic backfield.
Nobody's talking about him thumping that trio anytime soon, but he's certainly put himself into the mix for making the 53-man roster after rushing for a game-high 69 yards on 15 carries Thursday night in Denver's 10-6 preseason win at San Francisco.
Although Anderson isn't as assignment-sound or as consistent as the three backs ahead of him on the depth chart, Jacob Hester, Lance Ball and Jeremiah Johnson could find themselves the victims of Anderson's solid summer if he has another preseason game or two like he did Thursday night.
"We're bringing him along," offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. "(He's a) younger guy that was an undrafted free agent; you can't just throw him right in with what's going on with the 1s. It's a process for him, and I think he's trying to get caught up to speed as quickly as possible."
With the Broncos getting better, it's becoming harder and harder for undrafted college free agents to crack their roster, but Anderson practices and plays with a nastiness befitting his status as an overlooked, underappreciated back who uses his snub of draft weekend as a burning ember his in belly.
"I've always got a chip on my shoulder with every team I play, including when I play the Denver Broncos at practice," he said.
Facing backups or not, Anderson consistently reels off some of the longer, more impressive runs at training camp and it was no different in the Broncos' preseason opener.
"I always knew what I could do," he said. "I never doubted my talent or my ability. It's not a surprise to me. But I am proud and I am glad I got the opportunity to do it. I just took advantage of my opportunities in front of me. You have some of the guys out there where it's on the line, undrafted guys like me trying to pave their way. So, them making the blocks making me look good really makes them look good."
The Indianapolis Colts have had at least one undrafted free agent make their Week 1 roster in each of the last 14 years. Kansas City has a 10-year streak and Denver's nine-year streak includes the likes of cornerback Chris Harris and linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
"At the end of the day, they all say, 'You're here, it doesn't matter how you got here,'" Anderson said. "Terrell Davis was drafted in the sixth round. They always talk about him a lot. Rod Smith was undrafted, on the practice squad and they always talk about him a lot and he's done some things. So, the organization is known for undrafted players to step up and make plays and I'm just trying to put myself in that category."
Notes: CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned to practice Saturday in full pads just 10 days after suffering a high left ankle sprain. ... DC Jack Del Rio said he hasn't mapped out contingency plans in case All-Pro pass-rusher Von Miller loses his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the league's drug-abuse policy, a hearing on which is scheduled for Thursday. "No, I haven't spent a lot of time on that. There is plenty of time for that," Del Rio said. "Right now we are just preparing the team that we have here working."
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