Wednesday afternoon, news broke that Denver Broncos star running back C.J. Anderson has an injury to his right knee and could miss extended time. Thursday, we received confirmation that he has a torn meniscus.
Anderson had gotten off to a hot start to the season before falling into a mini-slump over the course of four games against the likes of Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Atlanta and San Diego.
Still, in typical Anderson form, the shifty running back would have a great game on Monday night with over 100 yards rushing and and touchdown. It looked like No. 22 was setting up to go on one of his usual runs.
But the injury bug struck.
With Anderson not being fit to see the backfield any time soon, the position now goes from being a time share to a more traditional one-man show, as Devontae Booker moves into that spot, with Kapri Bibbs serving as the No. 2. Coach Gary Kubiak described what will change this way.
“It just picks up Kapri’s work basically," Kubiak said Tuesday. "Obviously, ‘Book’ would start and it’s kind of up to ‘Book’. How much can he handle and what kind of load he can handle? I think that he’s been growing and played really well the other night. Kapri’s been chomping for an opportunity so we’ll see. We’ll see where C.J. is at. [We] take it a day at a time."
“Right now, my coach has talked about it pretty much every day in our meeting room about opportunity and being ready for it," Booker said Tuesday. "He coaches us to be ready for every opportunity and during film study he makes sure we are ready for each and every situation that we may get on the field.”
After giving the team a spark late in the loss to the Chargers in Week 6, Booker earned a 50/50 split with Anderson and actually had more carries on Monday night, with 17 to Anderson’s 16. He also scored his first NFL touchdown.
It remains to be seen how long the Broncos will be without Anderson but how will the injury affect the Booker's progress? The backfield-by-committee approach that the team was taking was the best way to utilize the running ability of Booker, without having to keep him in on crucial passing downs or task him with protecting Trevor Siemian on third-and-long situations.
“It’s just really knowing the whole offense," Booker said. "When I first got here, it was a learning obstacle for me, so the more and more that I watch film and start studying our offense more, I started knowing more and more about the pass protection.”
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Booker, by no means, is a slouch in pass protection but due to his lack of experience, wasn’t the coaches' first choice to handle the blitz pickup on those types of game situations.
Booker has also benefited from only being asked to touch the ball 10-15 times a game, or less. This has allowed him to be the fresh pair of legs that takes advantage of defenses, while at the same time allowing the coaching staff to pick their spots of exactly when and how they are able to deploy Booker.
With Anderson going down, it remains to be seen whether the extra time on the field will negatively impact the rookie in the short term, should Anderson miss just a few games or be unavailable for the stretch run in December when rookies typically start hitting the wall of fatigue.
On the positive side, because of his steady improvement, Booker has deservedly earned the right to be out on the field more. He has consistently been the more explosive of the two backs and has also shown the necessary quickness and field vision on the stretch plays that haven’t been as effective when Anderson is in the backfield.
In running those stretch plays, Booker has shown that he is able to set up blockers accordingly and get up the field quickly.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1719434-get-si-subscription-with-... Booker's explosiveness also helps out the passing game by allowing them to run more play-action passes or bootlegs — something that has been noticeably missing in the West Coast offense employed by Coach Kubiak.
Those types of play calls also give Siemian easier throws, where he will simply need to find the receiver that beats one-on-one coverage down the field, or find someone like tight end Virgil Green or fullback Andy Janovich in the flat and let them get yards running after the catch.
The Broncos will sustain a major blow if they lose Anderson for any extended period of time. From a personnel standpoint, Anderson is a great fit for what the offense likes to do. But, the depth that team has at the position will be taxed by losing his availability.
Combined with all the other things he does for this team ranging from his pass-protection skills to being a great safety valve out of the backfield, losing Anderson for any amount of time will be felt.
However, it’s hard to not get excited at the notion of the talented Booker getting more time and carries to showcase why he was such a steal in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Whether it be running the ball or catching it out of the backfield, the Denver running game will be in the capable hands of Devontae Booker for any amount of time that C.J. Anderson misses with injury.
Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.
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