Denver Broncos Fight For 53 -- Running Back Battle

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01: Runningback Lance Ball #35 of the Denver Broncos rushes the football against safety Matt Ware #22 of the Arizona Cardinals during the preseason NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 1, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The most difficult position battle to get shored up adequately is proving to be Running Backs.  While Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee are a lock for the starting tandem, the young players behind them have shown only very limited flashes, mostly due to to difficult line play.  Denver is expected to scan the waiver wire for additional help.  Also in this group we can add the pure Fullback position (not the wingback or H-back positions.  Those are still starting slots and quite valuable, but we'll lump them with TEs to limit confusion), so we can include the much improved Spencer Larsen to the group of entrenched starters.

Running Back and Fullback total slots up for grabs:   2
  • Lance Ball:  Going back to relief time for Knowshon in 2010, up to the latest and final preseason game, Ball has shown himself to be an adequate runner, without an elite feature in any category.  In fact, his one ideal characteristic is his size, which is a compact, MJD style runner who can get lost behind the linemen in front of him.  He has consistently been listed as the #1 backup, and I doubt that changes much going forward, as his performance on Thursday was once again adequate and consistent.  Projection:  Takes one of final two spots open for RBs.
  • Jeremiah Johnson:  After flashing some great speed and cutting ability early in the preseason, his reps have bogged down considerably behind a hash of so-so line play.  His effort is consistently top notch and he earned himself reps in the kick return game as well.  However he is a lighter back who has had durability concerns in his career.  Projection:  Outside shot for final RB spot.  Too close to call.
  • Brandon Minor:  Minor is a much smaller runner than I expected Fox to try to install, but he has shown good toughness in the middle, and again, he is a high effort Running Back.  He struggled early in the preseason, but in the final game showed nice quick cuts and good running in space on a screen pass.  Overall he came on strong to finish out his audition.  Projection:  Outside shot for final RB spot, but not likely.  Practice squad eligible.
  • Austin Sylvester:  the FB Sylvester needed to prove himself valuable enough to beat out not just RBs but other positions as well in order to convince Denver to carry two active FBs.  He definitely impressed throughout the preseason, but in his final game he showed why he is a bubble player, going tit for tat with good blocks and bad blocks in the power running game.  Fox and company really like his effort and potential however.  Projection:  Waived on cutdown day.  Priority practice squad player.

So now we are looking at a 4 man Running Back group with Moreno, McGahee, Larsen and Ball, with another slot open for possibly Johnson.  However the waiver wire may allow Denver to look at a handful of larger backs who may better fit what Denver is looking to roll with in terms of relief and backups.

But these are just my projections.  Who do you have us keeping?  Will we look to run 3 back and 2 FBs, or should we carry more?

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