ENGLEWOOD—Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson is in San Francisco today receiving a second MRI exam and second doctor's opinion on his right knee injury.
Anderson suffered the injury on the final play of the first quarter in the Broncos' 27-9 thumping of the Houston Texans on Monday night in Denver.
There is hope the injury could be minor in nature, although it’s also possible he could miss an extended period.
Either way, the Broncos are expected to be without their starting running back and leading rusher Sunday against the Chargers. The Broncos would then have two more games -- at Oakland on a Sunday night, Nov. 6 and at New Orleans on the Mercedez-Benz Superdome artificial surface on Nov. 13 -- before they reach their bye week.
On the final play of the first quarter Monday night, Anderson cut right during an 11-yard gain and after he was tackled he wound up staying down and clutching his knee, even though there wasn’t contact in the knee area.
Impressively, Anderson played three more quarters on that damaged knee, gaining 84 more yards on 14 more carries. He finished with 107 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said Anderson was named his team's offensive MVP of the game.
"Sometimes it can be like that, you can play through a lot of things,'' said Juwan Thompson, a tailback-fullback on the Broncos' practice squad, who could get promoted by week's end depending on the extend of Anderson's injury. "This is the League. It's not college or high school. They want to get you right back to 100 percent to get you back out there.''
Anderson leads the Broncos with 437 rushing yards through their 5-2 start. With Anderson likely out against the Chargers, the Broncos would start rookie tailback Devontae Booker, who rushed for 83 yards on 17 carries Monday night against Houston.
"Right now, my coach (Eric Studesville) talked about pretty much every day in our meeting room about opportunity and be ready for it,'' Booker said. "He just coaches us to be ready for every opportunity and when were in film study he makes sure we’re ready each and every situation when we’re out there on the field.
"Definitely exciting but haven’t heard a word on where C.J. is. Just continue to prepare and be ready for the opportunity.’’
No. 3 running back Kapri Bibbs, who had one terrific season at Colorado State in 2013 before spending the previous two seasons on the Broncos' practice squad, has primarily been playing on special teams this season but he will move up to the No. 2 back this week.
The team could also promote Thompson from the practice squad.
"I've always been ready,'' Thompson said. "Even when I'm on the sideline I try to make sure I know what's going on. I might see certain things the coach might miss, or I can relate something to the backs. I'm always trying to prepare just in case anything happens.''
If Anderson’s injury is serious, it would be a blow not just to the Broncos’ running game but overall offense. Besides his low-center-of-gravity running style, Anderson probably has the best understanding of the Broncos’ offense this side of quarterback Trevor Siemian.
Anderson is savvy at determining where the heat is coming from and he’s sturdy and willing enough to use his 5-foot-8, 220-pound frame in blocking off pass rushers.
After a strong finish last season that included 90 yards rushing and a touchdown in the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 victory, Anderson parlayed the leverage of restricted free agency into a competing offer from the Miami Dolphins that was for $18 million over four years with $6 million guaranteed this season and another $3 million fully guaranteed for 2017.
The Broncos matched that offer. Now they have to hope Booker and Bibbs can match Anderson's production.