Jeff Legwold, ESPN Senior Writer 318d

Devontae Booker's return will divvy up the rushing attempts even more

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have endorsed the idea that many legs will make light work in the team's running game.

They exited Sunday's win over the Oakland Raiders tied for third in the NFL in rushing. They've pounded out 143 yards rushing per game in their 3-1 start and, before Monday night's game, only three teams had attempted more run plays than the Broncos' 130 -- Jacksonville (138), Buffalo (134) and Houston (132). Sunday's win also provided another glimpse at the Broncos' growing committee at running back.

In the Broncos' first three games C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles had divvied up all but one of the carries among the running backs -- rookie De'Angelo Henderson had one carry on a fake punt. Sunday, however, Devontae Booker played in his first game of the season after having had surgery to repair a fractured bone in his wrist to open training camp.

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has consistently said he intends to use all of the running backs, but how many carries that means for any of them will be a wait-and-see affair each week.

"I think it's going to go the way it's going to go," Anderson said. "We knew we all were going to play. We knew that when Jamaal got over here that we were all going to play. We're all going to have our time and have our moments to make plays. We all have different roles and we use our roles and our abilities within the game in the different roles. Maybe if the game is going another way, then maybe it's a Jamaal Charles day or a Booker day, things to that nature. We all ran the ball well and that's how we want to keep it."

Anderson, who finished with 95 yards on 20 carries against the Raiders, leads the Broncos in carries with 73. Charles, who had five carries for 33 yards Sunday, has 33. Booker, who had his first three carries of the season for 14 yards against the Raiders, will alter things after the Broncos' bye week.

Booker was the team's leading rusher last season after Anderson suffered a season-ending knee injury in late October. The Broncos like Booker's potential as a receiver, and Sunday he once again re-affirmed his ability in pass protection on quarterback Trevor Siemian's 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end A.J. Derby.

"On Derby's touchdown pass ... Book made the key block on a safety, so for a young guy who hasn't played much football this year to make that block, that was key," Joseph said.

Anderson, Charles and Booker have each been singled out by Joseph in the season's early going for their efforts in pass protection. All three players can provide impact as receivers as well.

Initially it's rookie De'Angelo Henderson who has been impacted the most by Booker's return -- he was a game day inactive Sunday. Henderson, who is the fastest player at the position for the Broncos and showed some big-play potential in the preseason, had already had a difficult time cracking the rotation with just Anderson and Charles in the mix.

But even if the Broncos top 30 carries in a game, as they have in all three of their victories -- they had just 23 in the loss to Buffalo -- it will take some play-calling dexterity to use them all. Especially if Charles, with five career 1,000-yard rushing seasons, continues to show the kind of explosiveness he has shown in the team's first four games.

"All three guys played well (Sunday)," Joseph said. " ... Jamaal Charles looks more explosive each and every week he's played. He's close to making big plays for us. So, that's been fun to watch Jamaal just bursting through the line with great speed."

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