With so much talk about the importance of the quarterback position in today’s NFL, the running back or running back committee often does not get the recognition as it used to. This is because the running game has become more of a supplementary part of the offense for many organizations.
However, one can argue that in most cases, it is necessary to have an adequate running game to succeed, too. Just one team made the playoffs while recording single-digit rushing touchdowns. At the same time, none of the teams that fumbled the ball more often than they scored a rushing touchdown qualified for the playoffs.
This shows you the importance the running game still has in the NFL today. Therefore, here’s a breakdown of the running back situation for the Denver Broncos.
Denver’s running game did not look so hot last season and went for only 1,544 yards on 398 carries. That gives us an average of 3.9 yards per carry, which is well below what you would expect from a team that runs the ball as rarely as the Broncos do.
Contrary to many teams that did not make the playoffs, the Broncos actually racked up more rushing touchdowns than fumbles during the season.
This has a lot to do with the electrifying skill set quarterback Tim Tebow brings to the table. Scoring nearly half the rushing touchdowns made him an important part of the running game as the season went on.
The team’s leading rusher in 2010 was Knowshon Moreno. The former first-round draft pick did not light up Mile High and seems like he is becoming a relatively average running back in the NFL.
He racked up 779 yards on 182 carries, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. His yards per carry average is about the same as for teams around the league, but certainly not quite what you expect from a 12th pick overall.
At the same time, Moreno put two scores on the board on receptions. His ability to catch the football can be a valuable asset for an organization. Additionally, it does not hurt his stock that he fumbled only once.
His partner in crime, Correll Buckhalter, on the other hand, had nothing short of a horrendous 2010 campaign. Averaging just 2.5 yards per carry did not help the Broncos a whole lot as he picked up 147 yards on 57 carries.
According to the Denver Post, Buckhalter is an obvious candidate for release, considering he is currently 32-years-old and failed immensely to impress last season. Coach Fox has stated that he looks to bring aboard a new back before the new season
Whoever that new running back might be, a lot of the Broncos’ running game situation depends on their quarterback situation. Drew Brees led the only team that had more fumbles than rushing touchdowns, and still made the playoffs last year. Denver's projected starter, Kyle Orton, is simply not good enough to carry the team on his own like Brees does at times.
Enter a competent running game. The opposing team has to account for the running game, as well as soon as Tim Tebow takes the field. Tim Tebow helps the running game tremendously as he struck six times on the ground last season. That's one more rushing touchdown than starting running back, Moreno, put up and just short of half of Denver's rushing scores.
This does not only benefit the running game, but it just might benefit the passing game as well. The Broncos had trouble throwing the ball effectively at times because teams knew that the pass was all they needed to worry about. A quarterback change dramatically changes that situation. If the Broncos can force the opposing defense to look out for the run, they will also find it easier to pass.
It seems clear that there will be changes made before next season regarding the running game. John Fox has stated that he wishes to run a more balanced offense next season and that he will bring in another back to do so. One can only wonder if another back can compensate for what Tebow brings to the table if Orton gets the final nod.
Naturally, none of this will matter in the first place unless the Broncos can find a way to actually stop someone on defense. Best of luck for the season ahead.