I feel like there is a common misconception among Broncos Nation that the Broncos were not particularly successful at running the football this past season. As the result of a Bears fan at Windy City Gridiron commenting that Cutler would benefit from a 'more reliable running game', I did some research comparing the Broncos' running game to the Bears' and discovered that the Broncos really did much better than many people give them credit for.
According to nfl.com the Broncos were 12th in the league in total rushing yards at 1,862 yards on the season. That in itself is not bad; however, in terms of average yards per carry (ypc) the Broncos were tied with the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs for second highest in the league at 4.8 ypc. Furthermore, they were only 0.2 ypc behind the Giants who had the highest average ypc at 5.0. For comparison purposes, the Bears were 24th in the NFL in total rushing yards and 26th in ypc. Despite running the ball 47 more times than the Broncos (averaging just shy of 3 more times per game) they had 189 less total rushing yards.
The Broncos did not run nearly as often as most NFL teams. Only four teams had less total rushing attempts than the Broncos. Those teams finished 16th, 30th, 31st, and 32nd in total rushing yards and 2nd, 28th, 31st, and 32nd in average ypc.
I think that the Broncos unprecedented number of injuries is what causes people to think that we struggled running the football. We had seven running backs placed on IR in 2008. I think this was partly due to Shanahan’s preference for giving backs with an injury history a second chance because he could sign them for a great value. Nevertheless, I think the number of injured backs was an anomaly.
I also think that our success running the ball despite the injuries is a tremendous complement to Rick Dennison (offensive line coach) and Bobby Turner (running back coach) who are two of the few holdovers from Shanahan’s offensive staff.
I know many of you have advocated that the Broncos use one of there 1st round draft picks on Moreno. However, with our defensive deficiencies and relative success runnng the ball I would suggest that those picks are much better spent improving the defensive line and linebacking core. I think it is very unlikely that we will experience the same number of injuries at the running back position again (although you never know).
This is the other reason that I don't think we need to draft a RB:
Why do we need Knowshon when we've got the Rumblin' Redneck?
(You can see the 2008 rushing stats from nfl.com here.)