The talk surrounding the Denver Broncos for the past three days has centered on two rookie free agent running backs. Both Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs were very impressive in their preseason debuts. However we need to take a couple of steps back before we put them both atop the depth chart.
Let’s start with a history lesson; there is a Broncos running back every single season that impresses in that first preseason game and people start calling him the next Terrell Davis. Don’t believe me; I heard it a hundred times on Friday.
A number of years ago it was Mario Fannin who, for two straight training camps, looked great but could never stay healthy. Two years ago, it was Xavier Omon who looked like Jim Brown running against players who were bagging groceries by the time the regular season started. Omon barely played the rest of the preseason and hasn’t been heard from since.
Last year it was CJ Anderson who to his credit actually made the team, and is expected to be a key contributor to the offense this season. The Anderson story proves that it can happen but let’s watch the next couple of preseason games before we tell Montee Ball to take a seat.
Thompson was running with the second string in Saturday’s practice and might see some time with the first string next week. That will give us a much better idea if he has a chance to not only make the team, but to contribute in a meaningful way. It’s one thing to run against guys in the second half of the first preseason game, it’s another to do it against guys who will be playing in September.
That’s not to say Thompson or Bibbs cannot do it, but I need to see more and I need to see it against a real defense. Can they pick up the blitz, can they keep up with Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage and can they get positive yards when the holes aren’t as big as the Grand Canyon? Those are all questions that need to be answered.
I said before training camp that one of the rookie free agent running backs would make the final roster, and I still believe that. It’s obvious that Thompson and Bibbs have distanced themselves from the others, and they are likely competing for one spot. The best case scenario for the Broncos is for one to make the roster, and for the other to land on the practice squad.
Both Thompson and Bibbs have been impressive through camp, but neither one of them have come close to unseating Ball, Anderson or Ronnie Hillman. I also understand the disdain towards Hillman at this point, but he has had his best camp to date and was solid on Thursday night.
Barring an injury or Hillman fumbling away his roster spot, literally, those three are the top three on the depth chart.
The next two preseason games will tell the story for Thompson and Bibbs; I expect both of them to see a lot of carries including some with the first team. The one who plays the best and shows they can handle everything that comes with a Manning led offense will win the fourth running back job.
I was as impressed with the rookies just like everyone else, but can I watch a couple of more preseason games before we make room in the Broncos Ring of Fame?