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Broncos young backfield blooming just in time

Zac Stevens Avatar
October 26, 2016


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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos resurgence in the run game in Monday night’s 27-9 victory over the Houston Texans was in large part due to the efforts of the two youngest members of the backfield: running back Devontae Booker and fullback Andy Janovich.

With the report that C.J. Anderson may miss a few weeks with a bone bruise in his right knee, both rookies will have an even bigger role in the running games success moving forward.

After starting the season with one of the top running games in the league through the first two weeks—141 yards per game—the ground attack was nearly cut in half in weeks three through six—77.25 yards per game. Against the Texans, however, the backfield came alive for a season-high 190 total yards on the ground, led by Anderson’s 107.

Although it initially would seem like Anderson was the one to credit for the bounce back game, both Booker and Janovich played major roles as well.

Through the first six games of the season, the Broncos relied almost entirely on Anderson, using him in more than 65 percent of the offensive snaps for every game except Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons. Up until Week 7, Booker was only used in more than 25 percent of the offensive snaps once—41 percent in Week 5. His role in the offense appeared to be spelling Anderson when he was tired.

Against the Texans, head coach and offensive play-caller Gary Kubiak completely changed the game plan. While Anderson was still the starter, Booker played more offensive snaps—35 to 29, respectively.

“I think ‘Book’ is becoming more comfortable with what we’re doing. We are more comfortable with ‘Book’ on the field in pass protection right now,” Kubiak said.

Along with playing a career-high 54 percent of the offensive snaps, Booker was also effective, rushing for a career-high 83 yards on 17 carries and adding his first career touchdown on the ground.

“We knew he had some juice all the way back to camp. So he’s got some juice and it’s exciting to see him grow and get more comfortable back there,” quarterback Trevor Siemian said. “’Book’ is a stud. He’s been running really well for us the last couple of weeks… We have a lot of confidence in ‘Book.’”

Since Booker was effective in the run and pass game, it allowed Anderson to stay fresh all game long, which was a big reason why he was able to have his best game of the season so far.

“It just feels good to be fresh, that’s how I look at it,” Anderson said. “If Booker and I can keep this 1-2 punch, we can help our defense out.”

If Anderson does in fact miss time, Booker will be called upon to make his first career start and take a much greater role, even more than last week.

And he’s not the only rookie in the backfield, although the name recognition may not suggest it, the most impactful rookie so far this season may actually be Janovich. In what is a dying position around the NFL, Janovich has played in more than 40 percent of the offensive snaps in five of the seven games, with a season-high 48 percent against the Texans.

“We want to get this kid involved, and we would like to do that more. He’s starting to come around, playing really good and had a lot to do with how well we played [Monday] night,” Kubiak said.

While stats don’t do fullbacks much justice, Kubiak praised Janovich for what often goes overlooked.

“He’s got really good hands. He’s a young player who is starting to become a pretty good player,” he said. “Hopefully we can keep evolving right here with [him] and Booker and those type of guys as we move forward.”

As the Broncos approach the halfway mark of the season on Sunday, the Kubiak offense is slowly starting to take form with the emergence of Booker and Janovich.

“We’re just growing as a group. Here we go in Week 8, and hopefully those kids keep coming along,” Kubiak said. “It’s going to make us better if they do that.”

If Monday night’s success was any indication of what the Broncos will do moving forward, the ‘kids’ in the backfield will continue to see an increased role, especially if Anderson misses time.


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