For any Raiders fan who’s watched C.J. Anderson carry the ball for the Los Angeles Rams the past three games, he or she must be thinking, “Why the heck did Jon Gruden get rid of him?”
Certainly, in hindsight, it makes little sense.
Since being signed as a free agent by the Rams – a week after being released by the Raiders on December 12 – Anderson has been a wrecking ball on would-be tacklers.
As a Ram, Anderson rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown vs. the Cardinals, 132 yards and a TD vs. the 49ers in the regular-season finale and then 123 yards and two TDs in a playoff win over the Cowboys this past weekend.
The 5-foot-8, 225-pounder has a slashing, straight-ahead style that punishes tacklers and allows him to be great in short-yardage situations.
Anderson, 27, was with the Broncos from 2013 to 2017 with one Pro Bowl appearance and a 1,000-yard season in 2017. He went to Carolina this season, but didn’t get much playing time behind Christian McCaffrey and was released on November 13. The Raiders – in need of running back help after the injury to Marshawn Lynch – signed Anderson, a Bay Area native, on December 5, but declined to activate him for a game against the Steelers and released him without giving him a chance to suit up.
In hindsight, it was a Raiders mistake.
Anderson has been terrific for the Rams, appears to have plenty left in his tank and could be a lead or complementary back going into 2019.
Anderson said he never lost faith in his talent, despite being released by the Raiders and Panthers.
“For myself, I just always kept my head down and kept pushing,” he told reporters after the Cowboys game. “I always believed in my ability and what I could do. It’s not like I haven’t been in these positions before. It’s not like I haven’t been … a 1,000-yard back in this league, a Pro Bowl back in this league.”
When this season runs out, however – the Rams will play in the NFC Championship Game Sunday vs. the New Orleans Saints – the Raiders might get a second chance. Anderson’s contract will expire, and he could become an unrestricted free agent.
Based on how he’s performed, Anderson should be in line for a big payday.