New Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph will let summer competition determine the team’s pecking order at running back.
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“Absolutely. I mean, every position on our football team is going to be competitive and that’s the way you want it every year,” Joseph told Troy Renck of KMGH-TV in Denver. “You want guys to come in and compete for jobs every year. Obviously the guys who win the jobs win but the guys who don’t can be capable backups. Every spot on the football team is going to be up for competition.
“The running back position — you need two or three guys who are going to carry the load. There’s no longer a one-guy position. So I’m excited to have Jamaal, Book, C.J. and even DeAngelo in the mix there. It’s a good group, it’s going to be competitive and that’s the way it should be.”
Joseph was referring to former Chiefs star Jamaal Charles, C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and 2017 sixth-round pick De’Angelo Henderson. Booker led the team last year with 612 yards — less than 200 yards more than Anderson, who played in just seven games (knee).
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And in each instance, they have placed more faith and trust in Derek Wolfe, a player wonderfully described by Broncos longtime beat man Mike Klis as both “brutish” and “unvarnished.”
That is not to say Wolfe, now 27 and in the middle of a four-year, $36.7 million deal, hasn’t learned a thing or two about himself over the years. Maybe leadership suits him better now than ever.
“When I see guys not doing the right thing, I’m going to tell them,” Wolfe told 9News in Denver. “I’m not going to sit back and let that (stuff) slide. Me, it’s either confrontation fist-fight or say nothing. I’m learning how to not fight people if that makes sense.”
While the Broncos can expect a yearly, out-of-this-world performance from Von Miller, Wolfe is in the mix to ensure they get the same from Shane Ray, 2017 second-round pick DeMarcus Walker and 2016 second-round pick Adam Gotsis. General manager John Elway is toeing the line between rebuilding project and last-chance playoff contender, with a roster that could easily slide in either direction this year. The continued success of their defensive line under imaginative head coach Vance Joseph could tip the team in either direction.
Where does that leave the Broncos, less than 16 months removed from their Super Bowl title, but without a known franchise quarterback or consistent offensive line play? Could Denver, by virtue of elimination, be locked into fourth place in the AFC West? (The Around the NFL podcast crew sure thinks so.)
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New coach Vance Joseph has a more optimistic outlook.
“I’ve said, coming in, really looking at this team, looking at every game — which I did several times — it isn’t broken,” Joseph told reporters Friday. “Yes, there are things we could, and must, do better, places where we need to improve. But this team won nine games last season. But I also understand the expectations here. It’s why it’s a great job; it’s why I can’t wait.”
Let’s take a look through Joseph’s rose-colored visor. Though it struggled in the ground game down the stretch, Denver’s defense remains a top-five unit in the league, thanks to a lock-down secondary and an improving defensive line that boasts Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis. The Broncos’ linebacking corps, led by Von Miller and Shane Ray on the outside, is a game-changing force. The addition of a healthy Jamaal Charles to the running back room is a potentially disruptive complement to C.J. Anderson.
There’s plenty to like about the Broncos’ roster in a vacuum. It’s only when you compare them to their improving division rivals that it’s fair to wonder whether Denver is destined for the cellar.
The team may not be broken, as Joseph insists, but it won’t be able to dominate the division the same way it did two or three seasons prior.