One of my favorite Terrell Davis moments came during his rookie season. TD was struggling to crack the running back rotation in training camp and it looked like he was ready to pack it in. As luck would have it, the Broncos were in Japan for a game against the 49ers and Davis couldn’t arrange a flight back to the United States. He wound up staying, played in the game and delivered a crushing hit on special teams that would change his fortunes forever.
Davis caught the attention of the coaching staff with that play and started getting more carries at running back. The rest is history. I love that story because a guy that no one was expecting much from literally forced his way into the starting lineup, and that brings us to Kapri Bibbs.
After running all over the NCAA in 2013, Bibbs was picked up by the Broncos and has spent the last two years trying to make the final roster. There’s no doubt that he’s talented, but that one signature play that will turn heads and prove his worth has eluded him thus far. And time is running out.
Now things were a little different in 1995. The Broncos were coming off a 7-9 season, Mike Shanahan was the new head coach and TD’s main competition at running back featured the likes of Glyn Milburn and Rod Bernstine. It’s a little easier to get noticed on a rebuilding team, although TD would’ve made it regardless. Kapri Bibbs doesn’t have that advantage. Not only does the current depth in the backfield run particularly deep (you saw what I did there, right?), but the Broncos are stacked at several positions on the roster. There’s a lot of guys trying to make a name for themselves on special teams and that hasn’t exactly been Bibbs’ strong point.
He’s also not a rookie and Gary Kubiak has a pretty good idea of what Kapri can and can’t do. The same can be said for Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson, but those two have avoided being cut while Bibbs has been on the outside looking in the past two seasons. Making things even more difficult is that C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker are currently penciled in as the top two running backs. Unless Bibbs can break it for a touchdown every time he’s handed the ball, there are just too many mouths to feed and not enough carries to go around for him to make this team on offense alone.
I know what you’re thinking. “Hillman doesn’t contribute on special teams, so why not just give his spot to Kapri?” Ah, you have a point there Hillman bashers. The flip side to that is as much as some people may hate Hillman, he actually led the Broncos in rushing yards and touchdowns last season. Ronnie may have flaws, but he’s no scrub and you could do a lot worse for a no. 2 or 3 running back than him. Would Bibbs outperform Hillman if he was given the same opportunity? The coaches don’t think so or they wouldn’t have banished Kapri to the practice squad two years in a row.
The painful truth is that the odds of Bibbs making the Broncos are slim to none. He hasn’t been able to leapfrog the guys ahead of him and the competition at running back is as fierce as it has ever been. Then again, no one gave Terrell Davis much of a shot either until he made a play that changed everyone’s mind. That’s why I believe that Bibbs’ surest avenue to the 53rd roster spot lies somewhere on special teams, where he can persuade Kubiak and co. that he deserves a larger role on the team.
Bibbs is down to his last chance to do that here in Denver. While preseason games are far from the most compelling entertainment, there’s plenty of drama to be found in every second that guys are fighting to keep their NFL dream alive. Bibbs may just have a flicker of hope to achieve that dream, but his flame hasn’t gone out yet.
Sometimes all it takes to keep it burning is one big hit.