I'm breaking down our team to look at what we have in the cupboard for this offseason. In doing so, I've gathered a bunch of data from www.nflgsis.com and www.profootballfocus.com to give us some stats to look at as we evaluate what our players did in the 2015 regular season. Also, www.overthecap.com contract info will be embedded when available. I'll add to that a synopsis of each player including their contract situation. Hopefully this helps Broncos Country here at MHR be better educated on the state of the team.
C.J. Anderson was allowed to test the market this offseason as John Elway only gave him with the lowest "right of refusal" restricted free agent tender. What happened after that showed a lot about how much the Broncos value Anderson as they matched a very nice contract offer given to him by Miami.
The funny thing about all of this is that Anderson as a player has yet to top 1,000 yards in a season. Do I see the goods when he is on the field? Yeah...he's got a lot to offer with burst, cutting ability, one of the sickest jump steps I've seen in today's game, and really good power. The problem is that he either can't stay on the field, or can't keep his starting role.
The big weakness I see with Anderson is endurance. He oftentimes has to hit the sideline after a big run or after two plays. He doesn't have the "workhorse" ability to be the man on game day or at least he hasn't shown it yet.
Outside of that though he's got "starting NFL RB" written all over him. His production is solid and he's shown us that he's got some serious clutch ability breaking off game-winning runs.
Really this contract is a one year deal with team-friendly terms behind it that allow the Broncos some ability to cut ties if Anderson doesn't shape into the kind of back we need to be successful. Yes, even I scratched my head at the low tender, but you have to see after the fact that even Miami didn't think Anderson was a completely solid option. They built this contract after all.
I kept Ronnie Hillman in this series just as a reflection of what production we had last year and as a way to kick the tires on if he should be resigned or not.
Hillman was our starting back for a large portion of the 2015 season in which our offense largely floundered. He had a memorable play or two, but largely was ineffective as a back in this offense.
The good part of Hillman's game has always been his straight-line speed. If Hillman can get the edge, he's a home-run type of back. He's also shown some aptitude at catching the ball out of the backfield and is dangerous in space. Also one thing he does fairly well is pass block (kind of surprising for his size).
The bad part of Hillman's game is kind of important: he gets tackled by a strong wind at times. Basically any arm tackle throws him off his balance enough that he rarely has power or burst enough to make gains on inside runs. This weakness is in my eyes way too big of a problem in the NFL. This weakness for example, is the reason we've never really seen a lot of "home runs" from him.
Hillman isn't under contract and currently is a UFA. I really think Denver is going to be looking for a more serviceable back this year to bolster our group. He'll be brought back if we can't find better options in the draft since he does know the system (this of course has value).
Juwan Thompson has been a training camp fan-favorite for a couple of years now. He makes splashy plays at times and runs a lot like Anderson from what I've seen.
The thing to remember here is that that action has the vast majority of the time come in the preseason against depth and scrub players. I do think Thompson has potential, but he's not got the shiftiness in his game to break more than some consistent power runs (especially with the poor quality of line play we saw last year).
He is a guy that can get some straight line burst going if you get him some daylight though and he does run with power. I really like his game in short yardage situations.
Thompson will be here for a contract year which I think bodes well. We really need someone to step up and play big in 2016 and he has the potential to do it. Keep your eye on him in training camp Broncos Country and keep cheering hard for him!
Finally, we get to the local favorite Kapri Bibbs. He's been a practice squad player for us in 2015 and is looking to finally make it up the depth chart to be a contributing player in 2016.
The running ability is there with Bibbs. He's got a lot of the same pluses that we see in Anderson with a little more speed and a little less power.
The problem I've seen with Bibbs is poor pass blocking. This was killer for his ability to move up the depth chart last year especially with Peyton Manning at the helm. In today's NFL game, there is too much emphasis on pass rushing (see our defense last year). Any back that gets on the field MUST be able to pick up a blitz and know where to block on passing situations.
Bibbs is hitting that breaking point for a young back who has been sitting on the practice squad. Developmentally he should be showing the coaches something this year or it is likely it will be his last in Orange and Blue.
This group has to be a big question mark for us this offseason. I'd make the argument that we might have a really awesome NFL back already on our roster, but without a decent offensive line, we'll never know.
Offensively, we have to see more production from our running backs in 2016. The Kubiak offense doesn't work well without a solid running game behind it.
I think resigning Anderson is ultimately a good move for us. The team has to look for more talent to bolster the unit with though. Hillman never turned into the home-run change of pace back everyone though he would be. Thompson can't seem to produce consistently against NFL starters. Bibbs doesn't seem to be able to put it all together so that he can see the field on game day.
The good thing about running backs in the NFL is that they aren't hard to find. In free agency or in the draft, talent is out there and the Broncos should be looking to make some more moves one way or the other to help make this group better for another run at a championship.