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Youth and versatility highlight Broncos' three-man running back group

Heading into training camp, running back was one of the toughest positions to predict for the Denver Broncos. The team carried five players at the position, though only two — Devontae Booker and De'Angelo Henderson — had played a single down in the NFL.

For the rest of the group — third-round pick Royce Freeman, seventh-round pick Dave Williams and undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay — the first taste of professional action had yet to come.

Following Saturday's roster cuts, it remains a young group — by far the youngest on the team, in fact. Booker, in his third year, is the most experienced of the group, while Freeman starred in three preseason games and Lindsay earned his way onto the 53-man roster by showing off his versatility throughout the summer. Williams and Henderson were waived Saturday.

"They're all qualified," Head Coach Vance Joseph said Saturday. "Obviously, Booker is the most experienced. He's played some good football for us. His better days are ahead of him. Royce had a great spring and a great summer also. Obviously with '2' [Lindsay], he's a special runner, but he also played [special] teams very well. He was an L-5, he was a gunner for us, he completed the package for us."

Joseph isn't concerned about the team's youth at the position, pointing out that running back has been a position dominated by younger players in recent years. Kansas City's Kareem Hunt led the league in rushing yards as a rookie last season; Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott accomplished the same feat the year before.

Joseph thinks Freeman, who led the team with 84 rushing yards and three touchdowns in three preseason games, fits that trend.

"At halfback we're not [experienced], but that's a position we've all seen the last four, five years, it's been young guys that have led the league in rushing," Joseph said. "Last year we had one in Kansas City. I think Royce has that kind of ability."

While Freeman and Lindsay are just rookies, Joseph believes both are wise beyond their years. Booker, meanwhile, has 314 career offensive touches — plus 14 kick returns — in 29 career games.

"[Freeman]'s a mature guy," Joseph said. "I think 2 [Lindsay]'s a mature guy. They play well on first, second and third down, so I have no worries with our young guys. They're all qualified, they're all smart guys, they're all good football players. [We're] happy to have them all."

The position features two of the 10 rookies that made the Broncos' initial roster, a significant number for President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway, but not one he's nervous about. The Broncos still do have experience at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line and all over the defense.

"I think it's the best roster that we could put together," Elway said. "I get excited about when we have youth that played very well in the preseason and has contributed a lot."

Joseph also thinks being younger will make his team fresher, faster and healthier throughout the year.

At a position like running back, which takes a physical beating every weekend, that's helpful both in practice and on game days.

In a few short days, all three members of the Broncos' running back corps should have a chance to show their potential.

They may be young, but that doesn't mean they won't be big contributors.

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