As we look forward to the 2016 NFL season we can honestly say that the Denver Broncos running game needs great improvement.
Following a Super Bowl Championship season led by the vaunted Denver defense, it is clear that Elway and Kubiak spent the off-season focusing on strengthening their ground game. Free agency started with the additions of Russell Okung from Seattle and Donald Stephenson from Kansas City to solidify both offensive tackle spots and help seal the ends. With both of last year’s feature backs being free agents, focal point number two became resigning CJ Anderson. After testing the market and visiting with other teams Anderson received a 4-year offer from the Dolphins. The Broncos immediately matched that offer, thus ensuring their leading ground gainer in the playoffs was here to stay. Anderson’s backfield partner Ronnie Hillman was also resigned to a one year deal.
Denver Broncos Running Game Ready to Dominate
Last year Hillman and Anderson shared duties as the main back, with Hillman leading the way through the majority of the regular season. However, as the season progressed into the playoffs, Anderson asserted himself as the starter and helped the team to a win in Super Bowl 50. With both backs returning for their second year in Gary Kubiak’s system, their understanding of the offense is sure to improve.
There is no doubt Anderson is focused. After penning his new four-year deal, the Broncos back stated that he wanted to be the best ever. Pretty ambitious, but it’s the kind of attitude and drive you want your feature back having. With the business of football aside the Broncos looked set and ready to roll into 2016.
Then, something special happened. A gem slid to the team in the late stages of the 4th round by the name of Devontae Booker. Elway immediately jumped at the chance to snag this one-cut, downhill style runner. Combine that with his pass catching ability and his willingness to protect the quarterback and the Denver run game just became exponentially better. He is not extremely fast, but the two-time All-Pac-12 selection is a workhorse and will look to compete for snaps instantly.
Booker is currently recovering from a knee injury suffered last November. He looks to be about 90 percent healed, but the coaches and medical staff expect him to be fully ready come June. Booker says he is ready now, but the coaches want to take it slow and make sure he heals properly. “They (the coaches) want me to work slow, but I only know how to practice at one speed” said Booker following his first day at rookie camp.
In the sixth round Denver added another dimension to their attack by selecting fullback Andy Janovich from Nebraska. The fullback position is essential in Kubiak’s run scheme so look for Janovich to become an instant contributor in opening up holes for the backs to slide through. Janovich provides Kubiak with a guy similar in stature and playing style to former Bronco Howard Griffith. Griffith was a big part of the Denver running game that saw Terrell Davis run wild across the NFL and to back-to-back Super Bowl wins. Not only can Janovich block like a MAN, but he has soft hands that can catch passes out of the backfield, and once the rock is in his hands he knows how to handle himself with slippery moves and punishing runs.
With all these pieces in place and the competition level set to extreme, expect the Denver Broncos running game to be vastly improved. In fact, don’t be surprised to see Denver backfield among the league leaders in nearly every statistical category.