In recent years the Broncos running situation has been in a bit of a strange situation. 1st round running back Knowshon Moreno has been impressive when healthy, but has struggled with injuries. Correll Buckhalter provided a veteran member to this squad but succumbed to age last season, dropping from 642 yards and 5.4 YPA to 147 yards. He was cut shortly before camp started. Lance Ball younger player who stepped up last season among the injuries.
Last season we also saw the arrival of two highly tauted backs through trades. Laurence Maroney arrived from New England, had struggled with injuries, but had performed well and was still young. But his time with Denver was limited, he never showed the speed he had in New England, only rushing for 74 yards and 2.1 YPA. LenDale White was another player the Broncos acquired, coming from a very short, I mean like two weeks, stint in Seattle, but is known for his time with the Titans. White, who had been productive early in his career, has struggled in recent years with off and on the field issues, gaining weight, legal problems, and character issues. White played during the Broncos pre-season, but during the September 2 game against Minnesota he got injured and he missed the remainder of theseason.
So going into this season, the Broncos needed some options, Moreno hadn't been able to provide the work horse carries, and with Buck and Maroney gone, that left our starting running backs at Moreno and Ball, so EFX set out to make some moves, and that they did.
These are the backs that are returning from the 2010 team.
Moreno was a 1st round selection by the Bronco before the 2009 season, and had a strong rookie year just shy of 1,000 yards rushing. In 2010 Moreno spent a number of games injured, but came back and finished with a solid performance, improving in both yards per attempt and yards per receptions. Expectations are high for Moreno going into his 3rd season.
- Very balanced, has solid vision, speed and strength.
- Is a reliable receiver with good hands.
- Mature, a hard worker.
- Good Blocker.
- Doesn't really excel at one thing, lacks breakaway speed or strength to move piles.
- Seems to lack the toughness to be a stand alone back.
- Ball protection is an issue, though improving.
Lance Ball came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2008 out of Maryland. Since then he has bounced around to a number of practice squads, from St. Louis to Tennessee, but after spending time on the Broncos practice squad, he joined the starters when the 2010 team was hit by injuries. Ball has a lot to prove this season as he hopes to remain a starter for the Broncos.
- Good agility, can make defenders miss.
- Very sound mechanics, good lean, good body motion, and vision.
- A fighter, won't give up on a play.
- Lacks a next gear, no top end speed that can break away.
- Struggles in blocking.
- While tough, doesn't possess the size or muscle to escape defenders or to move a group.
- Because he lacks size or speed, he doesn't excel in the passing game, though he has good hands.
LenDale White has experience the fall from glory, even during the draft, going from one of the top backs in the draft to a mid 2nd round pick. Going from a premier back to being written off in just two years. Since entering the league While has struggled with a number of issues, ranging from injuries to drug usage to butting heads with coaches. White is looking to create a new legacy in Denver, and to try and forget how he was replaced in Tennessee.
- Good size and build, is a strong back who can push piles and move bodies, great balance to hit blitzers.
- Nice burst off the ball.
- Good ball protection.
- While having good burst, has poor top speed.
- Struggles running pass routes due to stiffness of movements.
- Can be indecisive if a hole doesn't show up immediately.
Was originally drafted as a linebacker in 2008, but after spending time at ILB, FB and on ST, Larsen saw his job switch to fullback full time. Larsen is known for his versatility in multiple positions but is trying to lock a spot on the roster as the Broncos go through a coaching change. While Larsen lacks pure talent, he is known whereever he is, either in college or the NFL, as his college teammates called him called him " the heart and soul."
- Hard worker, competitive and outspoken player.
- Is very football smart, studies the game very thoroughly.
- Carries his weight well, can take hits without loosing momentum.
- Doesn't possess a lot of athletic talent, lacking great speed, size or strength.
- Struggles to recover from mistakes made, both during the play and afterwards.
- Doesn't have the soft hands to be regularly active in the passing game.
- Sometimes is overly competitive, over pursuing plays, getting on himself too hard, and compounding mistakes.
These are the new faces at Mile High.
Like LenDale White, McGahee has also fallne from the graces of his drafted, and 2nd, team, but McGahee didn't do it through concerning activities, rather just being phased out. McGahee reached a Pro Bowl in 2007 after topping 1,200 yards and 7 touchdowns, but that wasn't even his best season. McGahee has topped 1,000 yards three times in his career, and topped 10 touchdowns twice. Even after losing touches, he was still the primary goal line back in Baltimore, and looks to take back a bigger role in Denver.
- Strong downhill runner, seems to enjoy contact.
- Has surprising speed for a runner of his style.
- Has great vision to spot holes immediately and make his cut.
- Is starting to show wear and tear, lacks burst off the ball he used to have.
- Turns 30 this year, and as a goal line back, he has taken a lot of hits.
- Fumbles have been an on and off issue.
Johnson joined the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oregon in 2009 but went on injury reserve in August after injuring his shoulder. Since then he has bounced to the Redskins and Panthers practice squads before joining the Broncos training camp. It will be a tough spot, and an uphill climb for Johnson to fight for if he wants to make the roster, but has experience in a similar offense, and worked with Jonathan Stewart in college.
Minor is a second year player out of Michigan who went undrafted in 2010. He has spent time on the Bears, Saints, and Colts practice squads before coming into Denver. Minor's college career was marred by injuries, and he is out to show it hasn't affected his game as he fights for his first NFL roster spot. Despite his injury history, Minor is a harder who will do what he can at every opportunity.
Fannin is a rookie coming out of Auburn. He is a lightning quick back, but has shown a lack of mobility side to side. Sadly his college career started going downhill after fumbling problems became too frequent. A tough runner and a great blocker who saw time at fullback after his time at running back was cut. Fannin has shown sparks at camp, something he hopes will erase the memory of a poor Senior college year.
Sylvester is also an undrafted rookie this season from Washington. In college he saw limited action as a starter, mostly spent time on special teams. Sylvester played both running back and full back at Washington, but never was dominant, and likely will be looking for a spot on the Broncos special teams squad for him to make the roster.
To me it appears we have improved at the running back position from last season. If Moreno can stay healthy, we should be looking good with McGahee as the other starter. Larsen, White and Ball to me have the best chances to make the team, the rest of the players seem very limited, and will have to really impress to get a roster spot.
Personally, I'd grade Moreno, McGahee, Ball, White and Larsen a B, some good talent and a balanced running group. Add in a surprise from one of the other guys, we should see some major improvement over the 2010 squad.