ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Jackhammers and buzz saws nearly drowned out the coaches hollering during OTAs this week at Denver Broncos headquarters, which is undergoing a makeover this spring.
Upgrades include a massive new theater for team meetings and an expansion of the training room.
Another thing the Broncos are remodeling is their backfield.
It’s hardly recognizable following the departures of veterans C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles along with longtime position coach Eric Studesville, one of six assistants fired after last season.
Curtis Modkins, who tutored 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Howard in Chicago last season, replaced Studesville, Miami’s new run game coordinator who served four head coaches in his eight years in Denver.
Charles wasn’t re-signed after one season in Denver, and the Broncos released sixth-year pro Anderson, their leading rusher, to save $9 million. He signed with the Carolina Panthers.
That leaves not a single running back in Denver who has ever posted a 100-yard game in the NFL.
It’s a backfield bursting with energy, if not enthusiasm.
“We’re all young,” third-year pro Devontae Booker said. “We can go out there and take it to the house at any time.”
Booker didn’t start a single game last year, and second-year pro De’Angelo “Hop” Henderson carried seven times as a rookie. But with fullback Andy Janovich known more for busting helmets than tackles, they’re the ones getting peppered with questions from a trio of rookies.
“It’s crazy,” said Booker, who turns 26 Sunday. “I think Hop’s the same age as me, but I’ve been here longer.”
The Broncos selected Royce Freeman from Oregon in the second round of the NFL draft and Arkansas’ David Williams in the seventh before adding Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay, who went undrafted.
Booker isn’t acting like he’s suddenly ascended to the top of the depth chart, either.
“We’ve got four or five backs competing to be the guy, so he’s got to come out and work and earn the right to be the guy,” coach Vance Joseph said. “Obviously, he understands that with C.J. gone, it’s a wide-open race. He’s excited about that and he should take a step forward.”
No matter who emerges as the Broncos’ lead back, there will be plenty of carries to go around.
“Someone’s got to be the starter, but I think to have a great running game, you have to have two or three guys,” Joseph said. “I think also (important is) having a third-down back, a guy who can be great in protections, catch the ball out of the backfield and beat linebackers one on one.”
Booker, for one, wouldn’t mind sharing snaps.
“Running back by committee,” Booker said. “If it happens like that, I’m all for it.”
Here’s a look at the running backs jockeying for carries in 2018:
DEVONTAE BOOKER: Coming off an injury-marred season, he was expecting to share snaps this season – with Anderson.
“It was crazy, because the first day we got back, that’s when everything happened. I had just seen him. We were doing physicals and the next thing I know” he’s been released, Booker said. “It was shocking to me, but at the end of the day it’s a business. Best of luck to C.J.”
DE’ANGELO HENDERSON: The speedster from Coastal Carolina escaped serious injury when a drunken driver totaled his Jeep last week.
“It definitely makes you appreciate everything more,” Henderson said. “After I stopped, I was like, I’m lucky. I’ve got a newborn son, I got a fiancee. I’ve got a family that really cares about me and teammates that are counting on me this year.”
ROYCE FREEMAN: Freeman’s high football odometer – 947 rushes, 79 catches in college – didn’t scare off the Broncos: “What it shows to us is he’s durable,” general manager John Elway said.
Freeman agrees his college workload shouldn’t be a concern.
“It is not often you get backs playing as many games or taking as many carries,” Freeman said. “I feel like the fact that I was able to do so proves I am a durable running back.”
DAVID WILLIAMS: He’s embracing the crowded running back room, saying he enjoys competing for carries.
“It’s actually a great situation,” Williams said. “If it was me in college, I would go to this school, if this was a school, because the situation is good. I’m just blessed to be able to have the opportunity to be in this situation.”
PHILLIP LINDSAY: In all but one of the last 14 seasons, an undrafted college free agent has made the Broncos’ 53-man roster, and this Denver native is a good bet to continue that trend.
He’s out to wow the coaching staff as a rusher, receiver and returner.
“I’m just going to showcase everything,” said the former Buffaloes standout known as the “Tasmanian Devil” for his relentless motor.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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