Justin time: Broncos land needed runner
Denver was in a rush to fill position
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.”
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.