Between now and the start of training camp, *DenverBroncos.com will take a look at 15 players who will be worth a close look as the Broncos prepare for the 2017 season.*
Jamaal Charles isn't all the way back.
But with every week that has passed since he joined the Broncos, the prolific ex-Chiefs running back has drawn closer. He's made incremental progress, from running in a straight line to taking handoffs to running up hills and, finally, to cutting.
The final step is to make those moves at full speed in a thicket of defenders and blockers. Do that -- and do that repeatedly -- and the 10-year veteran will have completed his comeback.
"He's a stud," Head Coach Vance Joseph said last month. "You can watch highlights and that's all you need. He's a pretty good player."
Just five running backs currently on NFL rosters have more career yards from scrimmage than Charles, who stands just 283 yards shy of 10,000 yards from scrimmage for his career. None of them have averaged more yards per carry than Charles' career 5.45-yard pace.
During training camp, the 30-year-old Charles will have to show that he is all the way back from a litany of injuries that has cost him 24 games over the last two years. He will also have to defy history; since the AFL-NFL merger, just nine different running backs in their 30s have averaged more than 5 yards per carry while amassing more than 100 carries.
"We all know what he can do being 10 years in the league," said fellow running back C.J. Anderson.
But the Broncos didn't add Charles with a specific workload on mind, nor did they bring him in to replicate exactly what he did during his prime years in Kansas City.
They added him for what they believe he still possesses in his 10th year: a dash of explosiveness, a touch of tenacity, a dollop of leadership.
"If he's healthy, he's going to provide a spark in the element of speed that we needed as far as being an explosive offense," Joseph said in May.
His speed will command your attention. His health and continued recovery will demand the Broncos' attention. That makes Charles one of the players you'll need to keep in focus beginning July 27.