C.J. Anderson Wins One for the Little Guys

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com passes on a comment from Broncos running back C.J. Anderson on whether he would feel comfortable handling a bigger load, as he did in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

“‘Oh, I know that’s something I can do,’ Anderson said during a visit to Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. ‘You know, we chose to go the two-back route and we chose to split time with me and Ronnie [Hillman] and just try to get a change of pace. You know, keep defenses off balance. But I mean if they want me to touch the ball 25 times, 27 times, 28 times, either way whether it’s all carries or carries and catches I believe I can handle it always, whether it’s being a third-down back catching the ball out of the backfield or picking up the blitz and also being first- and second-down just every-down back.'”

I like the two back system in part because if one back goes down with an injury, you effectively have another starter ready to pick up the load. And few people could doubt that Anderson can do that following Sunday’s game where he carried the ball 23 times for 100 yards. Anderson not only displayed his burst but at 5’8″ showed a surprising amount of power in this running style. He was hit repeatedly near or behind the line of scrimmage where you thought he was going down only to find out he’d gained as much as three yards after the initial contact.

Will Matt Blanchard Get a Shot to be the Bears Quarterback of the Future?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers yet another of your questions:

“When will Bears give backup quarterback Matt Blanchard a shot?”
“– Steve, Park Ridge”

“The Bears signed Blanchard to a reserve/future contract in January so he will be on the team’s 90-man roster when the offseason program kicks off in April. He performed pretty well in training camp and preseason for the Packers last summer but didn’t make the cut as they kept draft pick Brett Hundley from UCLA as their No. 3. This is Blanchard’s second go-round with the Bears and his first with the current leadership in place. We’ll see what kind of opportunity he gets. Things could change if the Bears elect to use one of their higher draft picks on a quarterback.”

I could definitely see the Bears giving Blanchard a chance at being their quarterback of the future. When Biggs says that Blanchard played “pretty well” with the Packers he understating it a bit. Packer head coach Mike McCarthy raved about him (via Tyler Dunne at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“I’ll just tell you what I told him when I met him in April. I said, ‘Why the hell don’t you have a job?’ Just after watching his workout and watching film of his time at Carolina. I just think there’s a lot there to work with, as far as his physical talent. The young man’s a winner, and he’s in a good place.”

The Bears actually have two young back ups with some potential on the roster. The other is 6’1″ 219 pound David Fales. But at 6’3″, 225 lb, Blanchard has ideal size. He also has all of the best characteristics that Fales demonstrates in terms of smart play with better arm strength and athleticism.

As Biggs points out, if the Bears draft a quarterback high in the first three or four rounds of the 2016 NFL draft, the odds that either Blanchard or False ever get a shot at starting drop dramatically. But every indication is that the Bears believe in Jay Cutler. He will be only 33 years old when the 2016 season starts and I have grave doubts that the current administration is going to spend a high draft pick on the future at the position this year. If that’s the case, in my judgment Blanchard has a better chance of becoming a starting NFL quarterback than Fales does and, assuming that the current coaching staff evaluates him with an open mind, it’s entirely possible that he’ll get a shot.

Would the Broncs Have Won a Super Bowl with John Fox?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“With Super Bowl 50 in the record books, I can’t help but hope the folks in Halas Hall saw what everyone else did. No disrespect to Peyton Manning, but let’s face it, the Broncos defense beat New England and Carolina. So my question is: Do you believe Ryan Pace and John Fox are committed to building a shutdown defense? — David T., Warwick, R.I.

“I think it’s fair to say Pace and his front office and Fox and his coaching staff have the football acumen necessary to realize what made the Broncos a championship team this season. …It’s probably worth remembering that Fox had a lot to do with constructing the current Broncos defense. He didn’t shift it to a 3-4 front but he had a hand in many of the players that were core performers. …You must be forgetting Fox’s recent past when you wonder if he’s committed to constructing a top-flight defense. That’s just what Fox did in Denver. That’s how he built the Carolina Panthers into a competitor before that. Fox is a defensive guy. Just because the Broncos won a Super Bowl after he left Denver doesn’t mean he didn’t do a good job building a solid defense there.”

I understand the questioner’s trepidation. Broncos General Manager and
Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway strongly implied that getting rid of Fox was an essential step towards winning the Super Bowl. When they hear that, fans are going to wonder what he means and if eventually getting rid of Fox here in Chicago isn’t going to be an essential step for their own advancement.

But I generally agree with Biggs. There are a number of factors to be considered here. For one thing the Broncos added some incredible pieces to the puzzle after Fox left in Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and Shane Ray. And although Wade Phillips is a great defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio is no slouch and I’m quite certain that he could have done almost as good of a job as Phillips did. I’m sure he would have been just as aggressive. Furthermore, one of the first things Fox did when he came to Chicago was hire Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator. Anyone who saw his defenses in San Fransisco can have little doubt about his aggressiveness or his ability to get the most out of the talent he is given.

No, whatever Elway’s problem was with Fox, I very much doubt it was with how aggressive they were on defense or with Fox’s commitment to it. I think Bears fans can look forward to seeing some good play on that side of the ball as the front office gradually builds it back up. Furthermore, though we’ll never know for sure, I can find very little to make me believe that the Broncos don’t perform at least as well with Fox at the helm as with current head coach Gary Kubiac.

[EDIT – Turns out that Talib and Ware were both with the Broncos in 2014 when Fox was still the head coach.  No excuse.  I just blew it.  Sorry.]