Denver Broncos: Measuring the future of the running backs

Oakland Raiders Rival RB Royce Freeman
Nov 18, 2017; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Royce Freeman (21) runs the ball in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Wildcats at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

For everyone who has watched the Denver Broncos over the past couple of seasons, it is not a secret that the offense has struggled mightily. The retirement of Peyton Manning and departure of Brock Osweiler left the team, for all intents and purposes, without a quarterback.

As many football fans are aware, the offense runs through the quarterback. Being that the team has not had that viable passer, it was no surprise that other aspects of the offense flopped. Offensive production from the receiving corp dipped as they looked to weather the storm. Thankfully, one part of the Broncos game which is seeing progress in the backfield.

The 2016 season was not particularly impressive in this category. The team’s third-round rookie, Devontae Booker, showed flashes at times, however, could not find success, despite seeing the most touches of anyone. C.J. Anderson, who emerged the season before, also struggled.

Last season the team saw progress in this category. Anderson fulfilled his “bell cow” role as he eclipsed the one-thousand-yard mark. He saw 62% of the unit’s total carries, making the most of it. Unfortunately, Anderson did average just 63 yards per game and scored a measly three times. Thankfully, things are about to change.

A backfield on the rise

The departure of C.J. Anderson leaves a majority of the backfield touches unaccounted for. The team currently has a projected rotation of Devontae Booker, De’Angelo Henderson, and newly minted rookie Royce Freeman.

Booker is entrenched as the starter, currently. However, this could all change as we careen toward the start of training camp and, most importantly, the pre-season and subsequent start of the regular season. Despite the notion that Booker will start, as it is no guarantee, the two other names bring an air of new intrigue.

De’Angelo Henderson

Henderson was the teams’ sixth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Playing his college football at Coastal Carolina, Henderson was incredibly impressive racking up three straight seasons of 15+ touchdowns and over 4,000 yards rushing.

Henderson also found success in the receiving game. He produced three straight seasons of 20+ receptions, posting a career year his junior year with 40 catches. The efficiency Henderson showed at Coastal Carolina makes it a big surprise he lasted all the way until the sixth round.

Henderson possesses impressive speed, as he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the Combine, and, according to PlayerProfiler, has a 95th-percentile College Dominator rating. In the pre-season last year, Henderson showed his athleticism and why he could be considered a strong option to start for the Broncos.

Royce Freeman

Freeman is the Broncos newest addition to the backfield. The product out of Oregon was selected in this year’s draft, in the third round at No.71 overall. If he can produce on the level which he is believed to contribute, the Broncos certainly got a steal.

A four-year standout at Oregon, Freeman, found great success on his way to an exceptional college career. He racked up 5,621 career rushing yards and 60 touchdowns along with 79 receptions and another four scores. Freeman finished with a 5.9 career yards per carry average. According to many in the industry as well, the future is bright for Freeman.

While the shoes of a Kareem Hunt or an Alvin Kamara from the 2017 NFL Draft class are huge ones to fill, it is still an exciting prospect to hear him being touted in such an impressive group.

Expectations moving forward

The Denver Broncos are a franchise with an illustrious running back history. The team, however, has not possessed a game-changing back for a number of years.

Moving into the future, it indeed is a bright one for the likes of De’Angelo Henderson and Royce Freeman. A revamped offensive line which continues to become better only helps with future development, and now the team has, once again, a viable quarterback manning the offense. It should certainly lead to an exciting season for the Broncos backfield.









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