<
>

Justin Forsett the last chance for Broncos to kick-start run game

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- On Sunday night, Justin Forsett will have been a Denver Broncos running back for 20 days.

That’s it. Not three weeks, not a month, not even half a season. It’s been just 20 days since the Broncos claimed Forsett off waivers from the Detroit Lions. It was the second time this season a team has released Forsett; the Baltimore Ravens also let him go.

Yet, Forsett is the Broncos' No. 1 option at running back. In many ways, the 31-year-old is the last, best hope the 8-6 Broncos can resurrect something, anything, from a part of the offense that has been dormant for much of the season.

“Certainly his experience is invaluable protection-wise, knowing the scheme,’’ Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said. “And he’s a great guy in the locker room, too. Nothing will faze Justin. He’s been through a lot and I think we can rely on him doing the right thing. I’m looking forward to having him.’’

“I just see it as an opportunity to help a team,’’ Forsett said. “I feel fortunate to have this chance, I’ll do whatever is needed.’’

Forsett started Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots and rushed for more yards on his first two carries combined -- 19 -- than Denver rushed for in its loss the previous week to the Tennessee Titans (18 yards). And he is expected to start Sunday against the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium on what is expected to be a rainy Christmas night.

And Forsett is it. He is essentially the end of the line for the Broncos, who have tried a little of everything to fix a part of their offense that has been so reliable in the past, even a source of pride.

C.J. Anderson (knee) and Kapri Bibbs (ankle) are on injured reserve; rookie Devontae Booker arrived via the draft after two knee surgeries in a five-month span, so despite his vast potential, he has looked worn down at times; and the Broncos moved on from Ronnie Hillman before the season even started.

They’ve bulked up the formation; they’ve spread things out; they’ve put the quarterback under center; they've put the quarterback in the shotgun: Still, little has gone as the Broncos had hoped. They have had eight games this season with fewer than 90 yards rushing, five games with fewer than 60.

“We’ve just got to make our plays, no matter who’s out there,’’ Dennison said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Justin or [Booker], get Juwan [Thompson] out there, we’ve got to make our plays.’’

It had started with such optimism, as rookie Andy Janovich was a revelation in training camp, plowing into linebackers and giving the Broncos hope they had seen the future. Then Janovich ran for a 28-yard touchdown in the opener against the Carolina Panthers -- his first career carry -- and kept plowing into linebackers.

The Broncos felt good, confident they had added the right people in tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson in free agency to go with Janovich in the draft. Janovich had some personnel executives talking about his play being at a Pro Bowl level as the Broncos rushed for 148 and 134 yards, respectively, in the season’s first two weeks.

But Janovich suffered a hand injury that forced him to play in a cast before he suffered the season-ending ankle injury. Add Anderson going to IR on Oct. 29 and Bibbs following him there Dec. 5 to inconsistent work in the offensive line all season, and the recipe for struggle has been in place.

So much so the Broncos are currently 27th in the league in rushing yards per game (93.1). If that holds, it would be the lowest the Broncos have finished in rushing in a season in franchise history.

The previous lows were 26th in 2010, in a 32-team league, and 25th in 1992, in a 28-team league.

“That’s not where we want to be,’’ Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “... We have to find a way to be productive, stay on the field and just get some plays. Convert third downs and get some plays.’’