Devontae Booker’s NFL career got off to a rough start. Early in the first quarter of the Broncos’ season-opening win over the Carolina Panthers, Booker fumbled on his first NFL snap. After the turnover, Denver didn’t ask much of its rookie fourth-round pick. He only carried the ball twice the rest of the game.
Six weeks in, Booker still hasn’t received double-digit carries in a game. But that might be about to change. The Broncos’ running game has looked broken since Week 3. Their highest rushing output the last four games is just 89 yards.
The biggest reason for Denver’s running struggles is the blocking. Right tackle Donald Stephenson and tight end Virgil Green each went down with injuries in Week 2. Both returned against the Chargers, and moving forward, they should help create more of a push on an offensive line that is allowing its running backs to be stuffed behind the line of scrimmage 21 percent of the time — the 23rd worst rate in football — according to Football Outsiders.
There is another way Denver can get the rushing game back on track as well: Feed Booker more often. The rookie looked impressive in the few chances he got against San Diego on Thursday, when he racked up 46 yards on five carries. He’s a quick, powerful one-cut runner. Watch him stiff-arm a Charger in the backfield, make another one miss and scamper 15 yards on this pitch.
Two plays later, the Broncos called Booker’s number again, and he snuck through a hole for 16 yards.
There’s a lot to love about that run, especially the way he finishes it. Booker might not be the human bowling ball that C.J. Anderson is, but he’s not hesitant to run people over.
Anderson’s production has tailed off since Week 1, when he ran for 92 yards on 4.6 yards per carry. He hasn’t eclipsed 3.7 yards per carry in any game since. Like I said above, a lot of that is the offensive line’s ineffectiveness. But some of it is Anderson, who’s averaging 3.5 yards per carry on the year, too.
Allowing Booker to get anywhere between 10-15 carries could help spark a rushing attack that’s looked broken for about a month. He’s quicker than Anderson in those super-tight spaces and is an asset in the passing game.
Booker has proved he’s ready to shoulder more of the load, and Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said as much earlier this week.
“I just think when he’s had some opportunities he’s done some really good things,” Kubiak said, via the Denver Post. “As a young player, we’re trying to get him going as far as protection and those type of things. He’s starting to handle himself better. I think he deserves some more opportunities to touch the football, and when he’s had the opportunities he’s done some good stuff.”
Expect to see more of him when the Broncos try to get back on track against the Texans on Monday.