Gary Kubiak is used to having a running back by committee, and one of the first moves he makes upon returning to work with the Denver Broncos could be bringing it back to the offense.
On Thursday night, Kubiak watched the Broncos’ 21-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers from afar as he recovered from the complex migraine that had him hospitalized after the loss to the Atlanta Falcons. And what he noticed was DeVontae Booker running hard and finding room on a night that offered little. The fourth-round rookie received just 5 carries but turned them into 46 yards.
“We’ve got to give Book some opportunities. He’s doing some good stuff,” Kubiak said Monday, his first day back with the team.
Kubiak said Denver has been intentionally bringing him along slowly as a rookie. With a fifth-year back in C.J. Anderson whom the Broncos invested in this offseason, it was easy to pull the reigns back on Booker until he mastered the nuances of the position, such as pass protection and ball security. After his first career carry was a lost fumble against the Carolina Panthers, that process likely became even slower. Luckily for him, it’s his only fumble so far.
Anderson hasn’t exploded as a feature back in the meantime, with no 100-yard performances and an average of just 3.5 yards per carry. His recent struggles are tied to Denver’s dip in offensive line play, and it’s only reasonable to expect Booker’s gaudy 4.7 yards per carry to come down with a larger sample size as well. Anderson has so far commanded 94 carries to just 34 for Booker.
A split-back system such as Anderson rode to the Super Bowl with Ronnie Hillman last year could serve both of them and the Broncos well. Neither player seems to jump off as a feature back, but they do offer somewhat different traits, with Anderson more the wear-you-down type of inside runner and Booker a player who showcases some second-level speed. And they will need to find some kind of combination to establish better ball control than they’ve displayed in the past two losses.
It could be Kubiak’s pet project now that he’s back in the play-calling role.