Posted Sat Apr 16th by Jon Heath
During the Mike Shanahan era, the Denver Broncos enjoyed years of reliable rushing attacks. From Terrell Davis to Tatum Bell — and the four backs in between — Denver had a slew of 1,000 yard rushers over the last decade, but it all came to a screeching halt in 2007.
What would be the beginning of the end for Shanahan, continued on (and was exploited) during the Josh McDaniels era. Though an offensive guru (or so we thought), McDaniels was never able to establish a good running game in Denver. Casting away several promising backs (Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain among them) and bringing in older models (such as Laurence Maroney and LaMont Jordan), undoubtedly contributed to McDaniels’ rushing attacks ranking near the bottom of the League in back-to-back seasons.
In 2009, McDaniels tried to address the problem by drafting Georgia star running back Knowshon Moreno. The 23-year old back still hasn’t lived up to his high draft day expectations, however. Although he has shown flashes of greatness and still has loads of potential, Moreno has just been a band aid to a wound that has been penetrating deeper and deeper.
With the defense and running game in shambles, the Broncos have turned to former Carolina Panthers Head Coach John Fox to fix their mess, and he appears to be just the man for the job. A task this momentous will call for some reinforcements.
Addressing the problem
Fox has made it quite clear that the team is looking for a back to pair up with third-year running back Knowshon Moreno. Whether they find that back through the draft or free agency is yet to been seen; names of a few possible candidates have been thrown out there, however. One that has been brought up several times (13.7 Trillion times to be exact) is Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams, who is set to become a free agent (one of the most sought after free agents it should be noted). Contrary to all the reports however, Williams-to-Denver isn’t as practical as you might think.
There is a possibility that the Panthers will in fact retain Williams – they certainly hope to. DeAngelo recently told a Miami radio station that his decision to stay in Carolina hinges on who will play quarterback for the team next season. If the Panthers draft Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, he would most likely be tempted to stay.
- And even if he does not stay in Carolina, the Broncos don’t appear to be on top of his ‘possible destinations’ list. He has said that he would love to play for the Miami Dolphins, who would most likely be willing to pay him a contract that he and his agent could agree upon.
- Which is something Denver may not be willing to do. Because of the uncertainty of the lockout, it would be more logical for Denver to draft a running back over planning on signing one to a big contract in free agency, especially a back who is coming off an injury that caused him to miss most of the previous season.
In fact, if Broncos Vice President of Football Operations John Elway isn’t just blowing smoke, and the Broncos are keeping their options open and legitimately considering every position and all the top prospects, the team may trade down in the first round on draft day and take Alabama’s Mark Ingram. Albeit, Denver drafting Ingram is a bit improbable, selecting a running back in the first three rounds however, is a big possibility.
The Broncos have visited and/or worked out over half a dozen different running backs entering this year’s draft and have shown a lot of interest in them. Baylor running back Jay Feely was at the team’s facility in Dove Valley earlier this week as well as Kansas State’s 230-pound running back, Daniel Thomas, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post. On Monday, Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure will visit the team.
Several free agent options include: San Diego’s Mike Tolbert (who is a bruiser), Miami’s Ricky Williams (who is on the wrong side of 30), and Baltimore’s Le’Ron McClain (another bruiser who would be hard to pry away from his current home). Many of the power running backs that will be available in free agency will be pursued by several other teams and come at a high price, making a younger, 2nd-3rd round draft choice a more appealing solution.
Denver may already have Knowshon’s future running mate on the roster
Let’s assume the Broncos are being as open minded about the running back situation as they are the quarterback situation. They don’t know, but they may already have their guy, as Elway has said concerning the quarterbacks.
Correll Buckhalter can pretty much be scratched off the list, at age 32, Buck’s days in Denver appear to be numbered. There’s also Lance Ball, and while his effort is commendable, he’s not the kind of power back Fox is looking for.
That leaves LenDale White, who missed all of the regular season in 2010 after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in preseason. White however, is recovering and ready to compete for playing time in 2011 (if there is a 2011 NFL season). Coming in at 6’1 and 235 pounds, White is a prototype of what Fox is looking for to pair up with Moreno – a big, powerful back. Expect White to at least get a good look in Training Camp (if there is a training camp).
I’m as big a fan of Williams as anyone, and would love for Denver to sign him. It’s just not that practical. Seeing as there may not even be a free agency period this year, drafting a back to pair up with Moreno allegedly is the most realistic option. Big thanks to Kreager G. for suggesting we touch on the above mentioned subject.