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Detroit Lions add Los Angeles Rams playoff hero

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In need of another running back for their backfield, the Detroit Lions signed one of last season’s most unlikely playoff heroes.

The Lions agreed to a contract with free-agent running back C.J. Anderson on Monday, NFL Network and ESPN reported.

Anderson, 28, worked out for the Lions last November after he was waived by the Carolina Panthers, but signed with the Oakland Raiders instead.

After a brief stay in Oakland, Anderson joined the Los Angeles Rams and starred in the final month of the season as an injury fill-in for Todd Gurley.

Anderson had 299 yards rushing in the final two weeks of the regular season, and ran for another 123 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ divisional playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys.

He finished with more postseason rushing yards (189) and carries (46) than Gurley, who played sporadically late in the season and in the playoffs because of a knee injury.

With the Lions, Anderson will compete for the No. 2 job behind starter Kerryon Johnson.

The Lions re-signed Zach Zenner in March, and have third-down back Theo Riddick under contract for one more season, but they’ve been actively pursuing more help for their backfield so as not to overuse Johnson.

The Lions signed restricted free agent Malcolm Brown to an offer sheet, but the Rams matched the contract. They also brought Spencer Ware in for a free-agent visit and showed interest in Mark Ingram, before he signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens that the Lions deemed too expensive for their budget. 

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Anderson, who had 403 yards rushing last season while playing for three different teams, spent the first five years of his career with the Denver Broncos, where he played in a running scheme organized by Lions offensive line coach Jeff Davidson.

“You always try to evaluate that position specifically to say, ‘How do we balance (our carries)?’ ” Lions coach Matt Patricia said at the NFL’s annual meeting last week. “Because there are really only a few guys in the league or that have been in the league that just kind of do that 98 percent every single down. Those are rare type of guys. For us, (we want to share the workload).”

Follow the Detroit Free Press‘ Dave Birkett on Twitter @davebirkett.

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