The Denver Broncos have kicked off training camp once again as they prepare for the 2016 season. With Super Bowl 50 in the rearview mirror, the team is solely focused on the task ahead. Training camp is a time when players come out of nowhere, fade into the background or solidify themselves as key contributors for this Super Bowl caliber team.
With “Champ Camp” underway, there are several storylines which are going to unfold for us over the course of the next few weeks. Bibbs is certainly a player for fans to watch when attending training camp at UC Health Training Center.
The Broncos have a knack for finding quality talent from the college free agent pool left over after the draft. For years, the team has found solid reserve players—and even some stars—from the ranks of the undrafted.
In 2014, the Broncos added Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs as an undrafted free agent. He only played one year of college football at CSU, but what a year it was! Bibbs finished that season with 1,741 yards rushing and 31 rushing touchdowns. Only three running backs in FBS history have 30 or more rushing touchdowns in a single season; Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State), Montee Ball (Wisconsin) and Bibbs.
For two years, Bibbs has spent time developing on the team’s practice squad. With only one year of practice squad eligibility remaining, it’s time for Bibbs to make the 53-man roster.
Bibbs has looked good as a runner (of course) for two years with the Broncos. He’s got a smooth accelerator and can change direction without losing much speed. Even though he only had eight receptions at CSU, Bibbs has proven in pro camps that he can be a reliable receiver out of the backfield. He’s got all the tools a team would want in a back, but Bibbs has to prove that he can pass-protect.
Kubiak is Watching
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak was asked about the running back position after the first day of training camp.
“You guys see we’ve got four backs, which is probably unusual for training camp. You maybe take five at least, but I feel really good with [RB] Juwan [Thompson] doing a little bit of both [halfback and fullback], so it’s going to be very competitive. Books [RB Devontae Booker] got turned loose today and did almost everything. I think maybe not the last period, but yes, [RB] Kapri [Bibbs] is a different player than I had last year.”
During this offseason and on the first day of training camp, it seems obvious the team is going to give Bibbs all the time he needs to prove himself in 2016. He’s been on the field quite a bit and getting important reps to showcase his skill set.
So how is he different?
Bibbs showed up this offseason looking like he had packed on muscle during the offseason. In addition to looking larger, Bibbs seemed to have improved foot-frequency which only boosts his change-of-direction ability.
Improved size will help him take on the punishment backs face in the NFL. He should also be able to run through arm tackles with better ease with more muscle on his frame.
Improved foot speed as a runner will help Bibbs escape defenders in the open field. Bibbs does a good job of naturally creating his own space as a runner, and now he should have better burst when he needs to leave in a hurry. He’s a patient runner, and now it seems like Bibbs has enough juice in his legs to quickly damage defenses.
But can he protect the quarterback?
That’s still the largest remaining question with Bibbs. We won’t be able to see that until we get further into training camp and the preseason. If he proves capable in that department, Bibbs should be able to make a strong push for the final roster.
Another thing Bibbs can do to help his chances of making the team is standout on special teams. Maybe he’s not a return man, but Bibbs should be working on his ability as a gunner. If he proves that he can run down the field at an incredible rate and tackle a return man, it will help him look better and more versatile in the eyes of the coaching staff.
If Bibbs does not make the 53-man roster for the Broncos, there should be more than a few teams that want to pick him up for their active roster. The Broncos have a good problem with so many talented running backs already on the team. Bibbs will have to have an outstanding camp to beat out last year’s leading rusher Ronnie Hillman for a spot with the Broncos.
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