Even as they consider quarterbacks, Broncos have RB questions, too

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There were times last season when the Denver Broncos' run game was little more than a migraine factory for coach Gary Kubiak, a spirit-crushing riddle that the team never really solved.

Yes, the Broncos ran the ball slightly better as the season wore on, going from No. 31 in rushing in Week 3 to No. 17 by season's end, but they never consistently handled that part of their business the way Kubiak wanted them to.

“For sure ... we need to run the ball better," Kubiak said. “That’s something we’ve looked at, to get better up front, to get better across the board and do it the way we think we need to do it."

The Broncos did use some of their limited salary cap capital to try to improve their offensive line in free agency, signing tackle/guard Donald Stephenson and tackle Russell Okung. Stephenson projects to be the team’s right tackle with Okung, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, playing left tackle.

While the Broncos did match the Miami Dolphins' offer sheet for running back C.J. Anderson because they see Anderson as potentially "The Guy" in the run game, the team’s depth chart at the position right now is essentially Anderson and question marks.

“We’re looking at every option," Kubiak said. “We have a priority on how we’re going about this ... We’ll see what fits our team best."

Anderson certainly wants the top job and the Broncos, having matched the four-year offer sheet, believe he can do it. It’s now a matter of Anderson taking that next step. He has never started more than seven games in any season with the Broncos and never carried the ball more than 179 times in any of those seasons.

The Broncos have seen his best at times and want to see it more often. Anderson said that was made clear when John Elway informed him the Broncos were going to match the Dolphins’ offer.

“There are still things going on out there that still keep you motivated and hungry," Anderson said. “Again, the best motivation is when I came in four years ago I told [running backs coach Eric Studesville] that I wanted to be the best to ever do it. I want to be one of the best running backs to ever play the game."

After Anderson the Broncos have Juwan Thompson -- who had 18 carries to go with a smattering of snaps at fullback last season -- to go with Kapri Bibbs, who spent most of the year on the team’s practice squad, and Cyrus Gray, who was signed as a “futures" player earlier this year.

The Broncos have invested two years in Bibbs, who has been on the practice squad much of that time, and Kubiak said it’s time for the former Colorado State back, who had a 1,741-yard rushing season in his last year of college, to take the next step toward the roster.

“You know what? He can," Kubiak said. "I think he’s very talented. I think Kapri needs to understand that -- let me say this the right way -- he hasn’t done anything in this league, so it’s time for him to go do something ... He and I have had that talk."

Kubiak has said the Broncos would consider a veteran back such as Arian Foster, who had three 1,000-yard rushing seasons with the Houston Texans when Kubiak was the team’s coach. Foster is still working to come back from a torn Achilles tendon that ended his 2015 season though, so he would be a player the Broncos would consider later in the offseason.

Kubiak also said the Broncos would consider bringing Ronnie Hillman back later in the offseason. Hillman, an unrestricted free agent, remains unsigned.

The Broncos are also expected to take a long look at the position in the draft. California’s Daniel Lasco is one of the most athletic backs the Broncos have met with during the pre-draft process.

“I know there are some real good ones at the top," Kubiak said. “and I think there will be a lot of good football players there on Day 2 and Day 3.”

Anderson said his 23 carries for 90 yards in the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 win over the Carolina Panthers, were indicative of what he can do week-in, week-out in a the regular season.

“That’s the game where it shows when it matters," Anderson said. “I stayed on the field as long as I want to. They pretty much let me go. I think I can do it. I mean, I know I can do it. It’s not like I haven’t done it before. I’ve done it before."