2008 was a rough season to be a running back for the Denver Broncos. The opening day starter was Selvin Young, and after his hamstring injury, there seemed to be a domino effect for Broncos' running backs landing on injured reserve.
Joining Young on the Broncos' injured reserve list were fellow running backs Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain, Andre Hall, Peyton Hillis, and P.J. Pope. The Broncos also brought in Tatum Bell and Cory Boyd to play the running back position.
After the barrage of injuries, new Head Coach Josh McDaniels was not about to take any chances this season with a similar result. His first two free agent signings were running backs Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Arrington, both of whom were key backups for the top two teams in the NFC in 2008.
He then proceeded to sign LaMont Jordan, who spent time in McDaniels' system with the New England Patriots.
Nearly a month later, the Broncos drafted Knowshon Moreno with the 12th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, and signed undrafted free agent Kestahn Moore of Florida.
After the draft, the Broncos also signed former Houston Texan and St. Louis Ram running back Darius Walker.
With this new crop of running backs, who will make the final cut for the Broncos' 54-man roster?
Georgia product Knowshon Moreno is a virtual lock to not only make the final roster, but end up as the opening day starter.
As a redshirt sophomore with the Bulldogs, Moreno rushed for 1,400 yards and finished the season with 16 touchdowns. He also showed great abilities as a receiver, catching 20 passes for 253 yards.
Moreno is not the fastest back in the world, but he draws very favorable comparisons to Terrell Davis in terms of his quickness and shiftiness.
Correll Buckhalter has proven over the last eight years to be a great reserve running back, but he has also spent a lot of time on the injured list.
In five NFL seasons, Buckhalter has rushed for 2,155 yards and 18 touchdowns. Most importantly, he only has six fumbles on 476 career carries.
Buckhalter is also very valuable as a receiver, and has 85 career receptions for 930 yards and four touchdowns.
LaMont Jordan was selected by the New York Jets in the same 2001 NFL Draft as Correll Buckhalter, and he has proven throughout his career to be a very versatile back as well.
He has battled through injuries, but in his career, he has carried the ball 872 times for 3,648 yards with 28 touchdowns, including four last season with the Patriots which is a season high since he had nine with Oakland three years ago.
Jordan, like Moreno and Buckhalter, has also proven to be a very reliable receiver when called upon. The power back has displayed soft hands, catching 158 passes for 1,301 yards and three touchdowns.
Darius Walker was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame by the Houston Texans in 2007, and had a very solid rookie campaign.
He rushed for 264 yards on 58 carries and scored a touchdown.
When Walker went undrafted, I was very hopeful that the Broncos would go after him due to his versatility. He is not the biggest back, but he can run and catch equally as well.
The only other running back currently listed on Denver's roster is last year's fifth round selection out of Arizona State, Ryan Torain.
Torain was compared by former Head Coach Mike Shanahan to former Bronco great Terrell Davis, and one can only imagine the lofty expectations that ensued.
In the first half against the Browns, Torain rushed for 68 yards on 12 carries, and capped off the opening drive with a diving touchdown run.
Overjoyed Bronco fans could not get enough, but sadly it came to an abrupt end as Torain's season was cut short by a torn ACL suffered midway through the second quarter.
He is rehabbing his injury still today, and is hopeful to be ready by the time training camp rolls around.
It is likely that McDaniels will end up only keeping four running backs on the final roster, so one of the aforementioned players is on the outside looking in.
Projected Starter: Knowshon Moreno (Acquired via 2009 NFL Draft)
Projected Stats: Car Yds Avg. TD Rec. Yds. Avg. TD
230 1,104 4.8 8 30 240 8.0 2
Projected Second String: Correll Buckhalter (Acquired via Free Agency)
Projected Stats: 100 460 4.6 4 25 188 7.5 1
Projected Third String: LaMont Jordan (Acquired via Free Agency)
Projected Stats: 75 330 4.4 3 20 120 6.0 1
Projected Fourth String: Ryan Torain (Acquired via 2008 NFL Draft)
Projected Stats: 50 250 5.0 1 10 75 7.5 0
Projected RB Totals: 455 2,144 4.7 16 85 623 7.25 4
2008 RB's Grade: B
Roster Spots Occupied by RB: 4/54
Total Roster Spots Filled: 7/54
Running Backs Coach: Bobby Turner