C.J. Anderson managing to take 14 of the 16 handoffs he took Monday night after tearing his meniscus helped make this a complicated week for the Broncos’ third-year starting running back.
But the confusion ended on Friday when the Broncos placed Anderson on injured reserve, shelving him for at least eight weeks. While reports Friday indicated the fourth-year ball-carrier could be out for as little as two weeks, or miss the rest of the season, Denver will take a half-measure for now but one that removes Anderson from its backfield equation for the first time since early in the 2014 season.
The 25-year-old recently re-signed runner must miss at least six weeks of practice time and eight weeks of game action. He will be eligible to return in Week 16 for the Broncos, but it’s difficult to know if he can meet that timetable after undergoing surgery. While their leading rusher (437 yards, four TDs) is the Broncos’ top candidate to come off IR in time for the playoffs, a backfield that looked to have formed the makings of a quality committee reverts to a solo operation for the regular-season stretch run.
Fourth-round pick Devontae Booker has flashed consistently off the bench but will now be the first Broncos rookie to be handed the keys since Knowshon Moreno in 2009. A Utah product, Booker has 51 carries for 244 yards and a touchdown this season and is coming off his best game — 17 totes, 90 yards and that score. But without Anderson to supplement the promising first-year player, Denver’s ground game faces a challenge, especially with an inconsistent offensive line and a pass-catching corps that lacks depth.
Former practice squad back Kapri Bibbs will ascend to the No. 2 role, with former tailback/fullback hybrid Juwan Thompson moving to the No. 3 job for the Broncos, who cut 2015 leading rusher Ronnie Hillman before the season despite re-signing him to a one-year deal. Once Denver drafted Booker, though, Hillman became a superfluous commodity.