ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – If the Denver Broncos don’t see the results they hope to see over the next two days, coach Gary Kubiak said Thursday he is prepared to start Juwan Thompson at running back Sunday against the Oakland Raiders in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Running backs C.J. Anderson (ankle) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) were both held out of practice Thursday. Both were held out of Wednesday’s workout as well. Hillman, who leads the Broncos in both rushing yards (643) and carries (157), has three 100-yard rushing games this season. Anderson has two.
Hillman did some light running in individual drills early in Thursday’s practice, but Kubiak said Hillman didn’t participate in the remainder of the workout.
“He did a little bit early ... the expectations are that he and C.J. would be full participants [Friday]," Kubiak said. “My expectations are that they’re both making up ground. We picked up the tempo a little bit."
Given the Broncos carry just three running backs on the 53-player roster at the moment – the team has a fourth, Kapri Bibbs, on the practice squad – the Broncos hope either Hillman or Anderson can be close to his usual workload Sunday, but Thompson figures to have a larger role.
Kubiak said that “my expectations are" Hillman and Anderson would be in uniform, ready to play against the Raiders, but added, when asked if there was a chance the Broncos would start Thompson:
“Yeah, I think there’s a chance. He’s worked that way last couple days. We have a lot of confidence in him. He played a lot last week and he played well."
Thompson, who has lined up at fullback for a smattering of snaps this season, has 13 carries for 40 yards for the season. He made the Broncos' roster in 2014 as an undrafted rookie.
“Those guys have been hot all year and I’m not trying to take that from them," Thompson said. “But now that they need some time off, it’s time for me to step up and play my role."
All three of the Broncos' backs have been limited at times in practice because of injuries this season. Thompson dealt with a hamstring injury earlier this season.
Still, the Broncos have found a rhythm in the running game during the last seven games, but especially with Brock Osweiler at quarterback in the last three games. The Broncos were 31st in the league in rushing in Week 3, but since have climbed to 17th.
And in their last three games, the Broncos have averaged 161 rushing yards.