The broadcast booth was saying “Anderson” so often it felt like a pair of Agent Smiths were calling Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Los Angeles Rams rolled to a 31-9 victory over their division rival, thanks in large part to a guy who had just joined the team less than a week before game time: CJ Anderson. The six-year vet rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown, two things he hadn’t done since the end of last season when he was a Denver Bronco.
Before he joined the Rams, he was a Carolina Panther. With Carolina, Anderson was nothing special (103 yards on 34 carries through seven games). With LA, he could be just the opposite.
Train is a comin’
Anderson brings what the Rams running game needed: power.
LA has the 4th-best running game in the league with 139.4 rushing yards per-game. In the two weeks before playing Arizona, however, the Rams rushed for a combined 134 yards against Chicago and Philadelphia. Those two defenses focused on daring Goff to throw the ball against pressure and in doing so, managed to keep a lid on Todd Gurley.
As good as Gurley is, he’s not a power runner. He’s not a guy who can churn out positive yards against defenders at the line of scrimmage. Gurley benefits from good run-blocking (the Rams are one of the best in the league) and uses his speed and quickness to make the gains.
Anderson uses his cuts and power.
Anderson had good run-blocking against the Cardinals, too. But there were some spots when the Cardinals defense could have allowed fewer gains had Gurley been in the game. Take Anderson’s third run of the game — Arizona CB David Amerson has the opening to make a tackle near the line of scrimmage, but instead is dragged by Anderson for an extra four yards for a six-yard gain.
Amerson was unblocked on a lot of Anderson runs and he was never successful in tackling Anderson at the point of contact. This run was similar to almost every other time Amerson came up to meet Anderson.
On a dime
Anderson is thicc (Edit: I just realized how insensitive this is. Please follow my Twitter thread as I educated everyone on why using “thicc” is bad). But for a big back like Anderson, he can make some sharp cuts.
On this second-and-seven play, Chandler Jones manages to penetrate the line and get close to Anderson. But the big back manages to evade Jones’ reach and hit the hole before it closes for a 27-yard pickup.
On Anderson’s touchdown run, Everett is actually late on the pull to block the edge. Anderson actually arrives at the hole before Everett can cross him to seal the block. Yet, Anderson is able to briefly stop to allow Everett to cross before charging ahead for the touchdown.
On this sweep right, Austin Blythe’s man is practically served up to face Anderson one-on-one. But Anderson makes a small, yet effective, cut to bypass him for the 8-yard gain.
Complements, not contrast
Anderson did better against a stacked box and a 4-3 defense than Gurley has and performed better against the Cardinals than Gurley did in Week 2. In that game, Gurley carried the ball 19 times for 42 yards. His biggest run was an 11-yard touchdown. Subtract that from his day, and Gurley’s average carry was around 1.7 yards.
These facts don’t make Gurley any less of a runner. He’s still the No. 1 back when he returns from injury, as he should be. What I’m saying is Anderson needs to be a frequent contributor to this offense is the Rams are going to make it past the first round of the playoffs.
Defenses know what works against LA. Chicago and Philadelphia were the testing grounds. Anderson can take over the short-yardage responsibilities. The Arizona game proved he’s capable of gaining yards when it’s needed.
Interesting: 105 of CJ Anderson's 167 rushing yards came after contact, more than Todd Gurley has ever gained in a game and the most by a Rams rusher in the last 10 seasons, per @ESPNStatsInfo.— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) December 24, 2018