The Denver Broncos Rushing Attack: Fools Gold

Doug Martin, Boise State

Most of us would love some defense early in this years draft, but I am starting to think the biggest positional need on this team isn't on the defensive side of the ball at all. In fact, we just traded away the engine that drove our rushing attack, which means we will likely see the ground game revert to what it was pre-Tebow ... i.e., bad.

I ran some numbers and found that under Kyle Orton, the 2011 Denver Broncos rushing attack averaged paltry 84.4 yards per game. Over the course of a season, that would have ranked dead last in 2011 - by about 5 yards. With Tim Tebow, the Broncos averaged 184.2 yards per game - about 35 yards better than second place. If anyone thinks we'll be anywhere close to Top 10 in rushing next year is boozing on some serious koolaid.

Personally, I am not comfortable heading in 2012 without adding some serious horsepower to the ground game. That means adding someone that will cause problems for the defense. With Tebow it was his threat of running the ball that opened up lanes for the rest of the ground attack. It also opened up the big pass plays for Tebow to capitalize on.

What To Do?

The one guy I think might be there at #25 is Doug Martin from Boise State. I really like the way this guy is built and his intangibles. CBS Sports had this analysis:

Inside: Bowling-ball runner between the tackles. Flashes a burst into and out of the hole. Lowers his pads and delivers a blow into the chest of defenders. Falls forward on nearly every run due to lean. Finds creases with jump-steps and bounces into open on some plays, but buries his head too soon at times. Short build makes it difficult for defenders to find among lineman. Does not always read blocks correctly from pulling guards. Holds ball high and tight when inside. May not be big enough to move piles at the next level, but gets low and gives great effort to pick up short-yardage plays.

Outside: Good acceleration and straight-line speed to break off long runs. Cuts hard to his left and right equally well to avoid hard-charging safeties. Flashes setting up straight-on defender with inside-out cut which freezes them. Strong stiff-arm denies oncoming tacklers. Shows patience on stretch runs, plants foot and accelerates to avoid penetrating defenders or once finding a hole. Does not always move ball to outside hand. Ball gets away from his body when running at full speed; fumbled three times in 2010, twice in 2009 in limited carries. May not break away from NFL defenders as regularly as he did against non-BCS conference competition.

Breaking tackles: Low center of gravity, strong lean, and powerful legs let him bull through arm and shoulder tackles. Good balance to spin off a hit, maintain balance and continue downfield. Lowers pads on contact and churns through cut tackles in space. Cuts quickly and even jump-cuts through traffic and past second-level tacklers. Plays through the whistle.

Blocking: Does not offer much in terms of pass protection. Often subbed out in obvious passing situations, best help for the quarterback is as an outlet receiver. Does not anchor against oncoming blitzers. Poor cut tackler, defenders easily elude him. Lacks height but possesses strength, build and attitude to improve with more coaching.

Receiving: Solid receiver in the flat, capable of running through tackles on the edge to move the chains. Flexible enough to catch passes thrown behind him. Effective on center screens, makes first man miss to get into space. Rarely goes out of bounds (unless time requires), cuts inside tacklers to get extra yardage. Intangibles: Offensive weapon with defensive mindset. NFL body comes from excellent weight room work ethic. Teammate Matt Slater referred to Martin as a "muscle hamster" due to his compact build.

Just the kind of player we'd want, I think. His one weakness is in pass protection, but that is something that can be coached up. My fear is John Fox and John Elway will think most of their rushing improvement was due to the play calling and not Tim Tebow, which means running back will not be a priority for them. If that is the case, then hopefully they will change their minds by the third round as I am not really interested in any of the running backs I looked at beyond that projection.

If Lamar Miller fell to the Broncos second round pick, then I could be okay with that as well. LaMichael James was interesting also - until Tebow was traded. He seemed a better fit in that option-hybrid stuff the Broncos were running last year. So really, it comes down to either Martin or Miller for me. Lamar Miller has several things going against him though: one year wonder, runs upright, and was never asked to block. However, having Willis McGahee to mentor him could make it work out.

Fools Gold

Right now, the Broncos rushing attack is fools gold. Buy it up at your own risk! I have to believe that if I see it, then so does EFX - otherwise, Peyton Manning better be ready to carry this team in a way that Kyle Orton was not able to do. It seems that Defensive Tackle is the most popular position in terms of 1st round picks among MHR users, but if not DT then what position would you like to see drafted at #25?

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