Training camp will answer a lot of questions that Broncos fans have as the team gears up for the 2017 season. For the mystery question of playing time for the running backs, it will come down to who stays healthy and who can have consistent success running the ball.
Success on first down means that the Broncos have many more options available in terms of play-calling when facing shorter 2nd down situations. The key to this will be whether the Broncos running backs can improve on their average YPC (yards per carry) to make an impact on the offensive side of the ball.
Of course, this means that the Broncos need their running backs to stay healthy in order to produce favorable results.
CJ Anderson led the way for the team last season as the Broncos’ starting running back. Unfortunately, Anderson struggled with injuries last season, starting only seven games for the Broncos.
During those seven games, he did manage an impressive 4.0 YPC and chipped in with four touchdowns.
If Anderson can stay healthy to replicate these numbers over the duration of an entire season, the success at running back will put both Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian in more favorable positions to lead the offense to scoring points.
Looking to compete for playing time is second year running back Devontae Booker, who the Broncos drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Booker was said by many as the second best running back in the draft, falling to the 4th round due to health concerns.
While Booker managed to stay healthy enough to play in all 16 games for the Broncos, he managed only 3.5 yards per carry. Booker will need to improve his vision and find open running lanes if he plans on “taking somebody’s job” as he proclaimed during his rookie season.
The wild card in the Broncos’ running back competition is free-agent pickup Jamaal Charles, who most will know and recognize as a former Kansas City Chief who wrecked havoc on the Broncos’ defense for years.
Charles is coming off of a season in which he missed due to his second knee injury in back-to-back years. Turning 31 during the 2017 season, many wonder if Charles’ injuries and age will keep his best years in the past. Despite the injuries, Charles is confident that he can still be “the guy” for the Broncos:
“Why would I not think I’m going to be the man. You think I just want to come in here and be like—that’s never been me in my whole life. My whole life, I’ve always felt like I’m going to the be the man. That is what I want to come up in here. If I’m not going to be the man, why am I here? I should be at home sitting on the couch.”
If Charles can remain healthy and rekindle his 2014 form, he will bring the Broncos incredible value at running back. With the exception of seasons cut short by injury, Charles has never finished any season with less than 5.0 YPC.
A collective sigh of frustration can be heard from fantasy owners as the Broncos look to have three viable options at running back who can contribute to the offense’s success heading into training camp. For Broncos fans, the excitement around Dove Valley should be buzzing louder and louder as the Broncos may have running backs capable of improving an offense that has much to prove in the upcoming season.