Broncos coach Vance Joseph said Friday for the first time that his running backs are in an open competition for the starting job just like his quarterbacks are. The difference is that his primary ball carrier won’t get the vast majority of snaps.
“The running back position, you need two or three guys who can carry the load. It’s no longer a one-guy position. So, I’m excited to have Jamaal, C.J., Book, even De’Angelo in the mix there. It’s a good group. It’s going to be competitive and that’s the way it should be,” Joseph said.
The Broncos’ holdovers are C.J. Anderson, who missed the last half of last season with a torn meniscus in his right knee, and Devontae Booker, who never really hit his stride as a rookie while making his way back from two knee surgeries.
GM John Elway added De’Angelo Henderson of Coastal Carolina in the sixth round of the draft and free agent Jamaal Charles , who is coming off two injury-filled years that led to his release from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Also on the roster are fullbacks Andy Janovich and Juwan Thompson and veteran newcomer Bernard Pierce, a fifth-year veteran who has appeared in 52 regular-season games with the Ravens and Jaguars but missed last season with a torn hamstring while with the Jets.
Charles, the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher, signed a one-year, $1 million deal with Denver for his comeback.
While Charles will vie for a featured role, the Broncos are going to take it easy with him over the summer.
“He’s been a great player for a long time in this league in our division. He’s been injured the last couple of years, so it’s our goal to get Jamaal healthy. And if he’s healthy, he’s going to provide a spark and an element of speed that we needed as far as being an explosive offense,” Joseph said prior to serving as the keynote speaker at the 19th annual John Lynch Salute The Stars awards luncheon .
“We’re hoping to get Jamaal full speed by training camp. He’s going to obviously rehab and have time to get healthy the entire OTAs and the entire summer. So, our goal for Jamaal is to have him on the field during training camp.”
That’s also the case with two of Denver’s draft picks, Michigan tight end Jake Butt (ACL) and Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly (knee, wrist), two players who slipped into the fifth and seventh rounds, respectively, because of their injuries.
“Jake Butt is on the same plan kind of like Jamaal Charles. We want to get him through OTAs and continue to rehab and get him healthy enough to be ready for training camp. And the same with Chad. I mean, Chad should be totally cleared with his wrist by August. So, right in time for training camp,” Joseph said.
The Broncos are holding their rookie minicamp this weekend but there aren’t any full-fledged practices involved. Two years ago, prized pick Jeff Heuerman blew out a knee during rookie minicamp.
“The practices aren’t worth it to have guys on the field who hadn’t trained in a football place, hadn’t met with our coaches at all. In my opinion, having orientation, having media training, having note-taking, security training, NFL policy training, that’s really important for those guys because before being great players, those things have to be in place,” Joseph said. “So, it’s a good weekend. It’s split in half. It’s a day and a half of instruction as far as being an NFL player and a day and a half of practice.”
The Broncos added a degree of attitude and speed to their roster with their eight-man draft class, led by Utah left tackle Garett Bolles , who will soon turn 25.
“It’s a class of maturity,” Joseph said. “Meeting those guys last night and this morning, they’re really in tune and engaged. … So, it’s a good group. It’s an engaged group, even Kelly, he’s got a glow about him also and that was impressive with Butts and Bolles, so it’s a good group.”