Despite not seeing any preseason action until the third preseason game and being limited in training camp while recovering from a second knee injury, Jamaal Charles will wear No. 28 for the orange and blue for the 2017 season.
Charles joins a backfield with incumbent starter C.J. Anderson, Denver’s leading rusher in 2016 Devontae Booker, and other talented backs including rookie De’Angeo Henderson and fullback Andy Janovich.
For what was described as a “position of need” for the Broncos in 2016, the running back position is now suddenly filled with numerous options for the Broncos to utilize in 2017.
Of course, the Broncos need to decide exactly who they want to keep in the backfield, with roster cuts looming right around the corner.
Currently, the Broncos have the following running backs (and fullback) on their depth chart
At the conclusion of the 2016 preseason, the Broncos kept only three running backs on their active roster in Anderson, Booker and Kapri Bibbs, with Janovich at fullback. The Broncos also kept a fourth running back on the practice squad (Thompson).
I believe they will keep four active backs for the 2017 season. When the Broncos saw Anderson, Booker and Bibbs all go down with injury in the latter-half of 2016, they were suddenly forced to sign journeyman veteran Justin Forsett and promote Thompson from the practice squad.
With Anderson the starter, he’s certainly a lock to make the roster. The Broncos remain high on Booker, who is recovering from yet another injury, but will also make the cut. He is expected to return within the first few weeks of the regular season.
If Charles’ roster spot has already been determined, the final roster spot will be decided between Ridley, Henderson, Thompson and Williams.
Henderson, who has lived up to the hype since being selected in the 2017 Draft, should be the final back to make the roster.
Moving forward to the 2017 season, Anderson will likely continue to get bulk of the carries. Behind him, Booker and Charles should be the primary backs to relieve Anderson when appropriate. It shouldn’t be surprising to see Anderson receive anywhere between 10-16 carries a game. Since being named the Broncos’ starter, Anderson has seen his number of carries fall between those numbers consistently.
To complement Anderson, Charles and Booker should each look to receive 5-10 carries per game, depending on the Broncos’ game plan for their respective opponent. Charles should be the primary back to receive passes out of the backfield, but Booker was targeted an average of three times per game in 2016 as a pass-catcher. Both backs make viable options for third-down situations.
While many people are riding the hype of De’Angelo Henderson because of his raw ability to be a special playmaker, his two fumbles against the Packers show that it should still be some time before he’s ready to contribute on a more consistent basis.
Following the Broncos’ official depth chart will give clear indication to the pecking order at running back, specifically if/when injuries occur at the position. For now, look for the combination of Booker and Charles to pick up the workload if Anderson misses time this year.
One thing was definitely on display in the Broncos’ third preseason game against the Packers: Charles still has something left for the NFL. He will join a talented Broncos backfield that should all complement one another as the season rolls on.