By Arnie Stapleton, AP Pro Football Writer
The Denver Broncos need a boost, and Kapri Bibbs will get the chance to spark their sputtering offense.
Coach Gary Kubiak said the third-year running back deserves more touches after scoring his first career touchdown last week.
His zig-zagging 69-yard score on a screen pass in Oakland was reminiscent of the breakthrough TD in the same stadium that kick-started C.J. Anderson’s career two years ago.
Among the 200 texts Bibbs received afterward was one from Anderson.
“He said he was faster than me because his play looked exactly the same, except his was a little dump pass and mine was a designed screen,” said Bibbs, who spent most of the last two seasons on Denver’s practice squad. “That’s my guy. So, he texted me and tried to give me a little stuff for it. I got in the zone, though.”
The Broncos (6-3) have struggled to establish a ground game with Anderson out and rookie fullback Andy Janovich dealing with a broken bone in his right hand.
Rookie Devontae Booker has started the last two games, but he’s gained just 76 yards on 29 carries for a paltry 2.6-yard average.
This came after Anderson and Booker combined for 190 yards on 33 carries against the Houston Texans on Oct. 24.
Anderson showed up sore the next day and within 72 hours had undergone surgery on a torn meniscus that will keep him sidelined at least through December and maybe until next season.
Bibbs saw this as his opportunity, but he managed just 4 yards on two carries against San Diego. Then, he made the most of his three touches against the Raiders, gaining 80 yards, including a 10-yard burst on third-and-1 that preceded Jordan Norwood’s touchdown catch in the first half.
The breakthrough came late in the game when he hauled in a short screen pass from Trevor Siemian and avoided seven defenders on his way to his first career touchdown.
Now, Bibbs, who drew praise from his coaches for his offseason improvements that allowed him to beat out veteran Ronnie Hillman, is preparing for a bigger role over the season’s second half.
“We’re gaining confidence in him,” Kubiak said. “Brooker isn’t doing anything wrong. We have to get him some room, whoever is in there. Kapri came in and made a big play on third-and-short, made a big run for us. He almost busted that out of there. Those are our two guys here down the stretch. They have to play well and we have to trust both of them to play.”
This is exactly how Bibbs’ career at Colorado State played out: He got more chances as he gained his coaches’ trust.
He’s hoping this season plays out the same way his 2013 season in Fort Collins did. That year, he started out slowly but by season’s end had established school records for yards (1,741) and TD runs (31), tied for most in the country.
“That’s all you can really ask for, more opportunities and more chances to get the ball in your hands,” Bibbs said. “That’s why they make me do kickoff return so I can get a chance to get the ball in my hands early so I can get going faster.”
Bibbs’ kickoff returns against the Raiders weren’t as impressive, however.
He was buried at his 14 and 15, setting up Denver for an imbalance in field position in the first half. He brought another out to the 24 and on the one kickoff that didn’t reach the end zone, Bibbs only reached the 20-yard line.
The coaching staff wasn’t as hard on him as the team’s fans, though.
“I like Kapri’s aggressiveness,” Kubiak said. “Obviously there is a plan in place. We have to execute that plan. The thing I like about Kapri is that he is out there trying to make plays.”
Bibbs said his emotions were maybe too high.
“It’s my first time back there. I’m ‘geeked’ up,” he said. “… They won and it looks bad on my end. But at the same time the coaches liked what I was doing back there and they liked the fact that I was hungry and wanted to take the ball out.”