You know that feeling when you see a picture of your ex on Instagram with their new significant other? That’s more or less how I feel about seeing C.J. Anderson with the Panthers.

It wasn’t a perfectly amicable breakup, but it didn’t come out of nowhere either. We’ll always have those special memories of the Super Bowl and beating the Patriots in overtime on that snowcapped Sunday night.

I’ll always remember the first time I saw C.J. in person. I was in the stands of the Oakland Coliseum in 2014 when Peyton Manning threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to this bowling ball of a running back who somehow barreled through half the Raiders defense on his way to a 51-yard touchdown.

Oh, C.J., thanks for not signing with the Raiders, Chargers, Chiefs, or Patriots. For that would be too much for my heart to bear.

I know what you’re thinking right now — that I’m looking at C.J.’s time with the Broncos through rose-tinted glasses. And maybe I am. Sure, he didn’t really have breakaway speed to turn good runs into great runs. Sure, sometimes he got a little upset on Twitter. Sure, maybe he was spend too much time on Twitch. But let he who has not spent an excessive amount of time on Xbox cast the first stone.

Is it weird that he joined the team that he played a big part in beating in Super Bowl 50? I’m not sure. It might be. Between that game and the season opener the next season, it almost felt like the Broncos and the Panthers were developing a mini-rivalry for a second.

But Carolina isn’t a particularly unlikable team. I trust Cam and Christian McCaffrey to show C.J. the respect he deserves and give him another shot to go deep in the playoffs.

For now, it’s time to start life over with some old and new faces. Devontae Booker hasn’t always been the most exciting running back to watch, but he has all the tools and should get a large bulk of the carries in 2018. Then, of course, there’s De’Angelo Henderson, who the Broncos drafted late in 2017 and didn’t play until the last couple of games last year. Of course, the second time he ever touched the ball he scored a touchdown. Go figure.

The guy I’m particularly excited to see play is Royce Freeman out of Oregon, the Broncos’ third-round pick this year. What sets Freeman apart from other Oregon backs that didn’t really translate to the NFL like LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner is he didn’t have the benefit of a quarterback like Marcus Mariota as another serious running threat for the defense to worry about for his last three years of college. And like C.J., he’s a thicc boy at 230 pounds, so he can dole out plenty of punishment.

The other guy with potential to steal my heart is Phillip Lindsay, the beloved CU Buff and undrafted free-agent signing. He’s only 5-8, and you have to wonder if that’s counting the afro or not, but he plays bigger than he is, like Anderson as well. I think there’s a good chance he beats out David Williams for a spot on the roster this year.

So while I’m feeling a touch melancholy seeing C.J. in that preposterous teal and black, I feel like he’ll be taken care of and I’m also excited for the next guy to come along.

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