Justin time: Bron­cos land needed run­ner

Den­ver was in a rush to fill po­si­tion

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke

The Bron­cos’ new­est player was easy to miss walk­ing through the doors at Dove Val­ley on Wed­nes­day — if not for his cheek-bust­ing grin and the pep in his step. Justin Forsett re­turned home to a place he has never been. And he’s thrilled.

“When you see me com­ing off the bus, I don’t wow you with ap­pear­ance,” Forsett said. “I’m 5-foot-8, 197 pounds. Coach Kube, though, he doesn’t care. He trusts me. This was the right place at the right time.”

Forsett, the 31-year-old vet­eran run­ning back signed by the Bron­cos on Mon­day as a stop-gap for an in­jury-de­pleted rush­ing corps, knows his coach, Gary Ku­biak, and the Den­ver offense as though he has been here all sea­son. That’s be­cause he played for Bal­ti­more in 2014, when Ku­biak was the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor there, and played for the Tex­ans in 2012, when Ku­biak was the head coach. The Bron­cos need Forsett as much as he needs them.

His ar­rival comes amid des­per­a­tion. C.J. An­der­son, Den­ver’s top run­ning back, had sea­son-end­ing surgery in Oc­to­ber to re­pair a torn menis­cus in his right knee. Full­back Andy Janovich had sea­son-end­ing an­kle surgery last week, and No. 3 run­ning back Kapri Bibbs was put on sea­son-end­ing in­jured re­serve Mon­day with a high an­kle sprain.

“We’re drop­ping like flies,” said Devon­tae Booker, the team’s de­fault-No. 1 run­ning back.

So the Bron­cos snagged Forsett off the NFL waiver wire af­ter Detroit cut him Satur­day.

“He can help us quick,” Ku­biak said, adding that he ex­pects Forsett will play Sun­day at Ten­nessee. “We need some­body to step in and con­trib­ute. It was a bless­ing he was let go the week be­fore what we just went through.”

What the Bron­cos got in Forsett is some­one who should fit in well im­me­di­ately. Drafted in 2008, he has played for the Sea­hawks, Tex­ans, Jaguars, Ravens and Lions. As a col­lege team­mate of An­der­son’s at Cal, Forsett re­mained in con­tact with An­der­son when he signed with Den­ver. When Ku­biak was hired as Bron­cos coach in 2015, An­der­son turned to Forsett for clues on the offense he needed to know.

“Just be­ing pa­tient and be­ing real de­ci­sive,” An­der­son said of the ad­vice Forsett gave him about be­ing a back in Ku­biak’s offense.

“What I liked about watch­ing Justin,” An­der­son said, “when you get a chance, you get your shoul­der pads squared and you get your pads down. You get to be a phys­i­cal back.”

That pa­tience suits Forsett well. In his sev­enth sea­son in the NFL, he fi­nally broke out in 2014, rush­ing for 1,266 yards in Bal­ti­more. It is not a co­in­ci­dence, the Bron­cos be­lieve, that Forsett’s best sea­son came when Ku­biak was his of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and ran be­hind a zone-block­ing scheme.

Forsett first learned parts of the Bron­cos’ sys­tem in Seat­tle, where Greg Knapp was the Sea­hawks of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and Alex Gibbs was the as­sis­tant head coach. Knapp is now the Bron­cos’ quar­ter­backs coach and Gibbs is Den­ver’s for­mer of­fen­sive line coach.

Forsett av­er­aged 5.9 yards per carry un­der Ku­biak in Hous­ton and 5.4 yards un­der Ku­biak in Bal­ti­more — both well above his 4.8 ca­reer av­er­age. So when the Bron­cos pounced on his avail­abil­ity this week, he was not sur­prised.

“Well, I was hop­ing,” Forsett said. “When I came into this fa­cil­ity and saw fa­mil­iar faces, coach Ku­biak, Knapp, Rico (of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Rick Den­ni­son), that’s fam­ily to me. I al­ways wanted to be here.”

The Bron­cos want Forsett as much for his pass-block­ing and pass­catch­ing abil­i­ties as his run­ning chops. He can be a change-of-pace run­ner be­hind Booker or he can split out wide on third down. In five games this sea­son (three with the Ravens, two with the Lions), Forsett has av­er­aged just 3.1 yards per carry. But he caught 13 passes.

“I want to be a spark. That’s my ob­jec­tive,” Forsett said. “You just never know when your op­por­tu­ni­ties will come. But you can con­trol how you pre­pare for that mo­ment. That’s been my mind-set all year. Be pre­pared for my mo­ment. I’m ready.”

Getty Im­ages

The Bron­cos’ newly ac­quired Justin Forsett this sea­son has played five games, the last two with the Lions, above. In those five, he av­er­aged 3.1 yards per carry and caught 13 passes.

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