Last year, McDaniels surprised us all when he picked Knowshon Moreno as the 12th selection of the draft. While many people did not support the pick, it did give some optimistic Bronco fans a reason to be excited. The running game this year was solid but could use improvement. Let us explore the running backs on the team.
Running Back Analysis: Knowshon Moreno
Knowshon came into the league as one of the best running backs in the draft. He is a very hard runner. He finished his freshman campaign with 947 yards, seven rushing touchdowns, and two receiving touchdowns. He gives constant effort and will be the feature back in Denver for years to come. However, he had trouble in short yard situations and holding onto the ball. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry, which isn't horrible but isn't exactly good either. There is no question that Knowshon will be back next year. As fans, we can only hope that his first year in the league has provided invaluable experience that will help him be even better this year.
Running Back Analysis: Correll Buckhalter
Correll became a Bronco last offseason. He came to provide some veteran support to a running back corp that was plagued with injuries in 2008. Unfortunately, Correll caught the injury bug and missed three games. He was also not fully healed in several other games. In 14 games, Correll ran for 642 yards and one touchdown. He was used as a compliment to Knowshon Moreno. Correll is a finesse runner who has break away talent. He was able to break off for several long runs during the year. He averaged 5.4 yards per carry. This coming year, he will hopefully be healthier then he was last year. He was a nice compliment to Knowshon.
Running Back Analysis: LaMont Jordan
LaMont followed McDaniels to Denver last offseason. He was scarcely used in the offense this year. He ran for just 86 yards while averaging 3.4 yards per carry. He got no touchdowns. He signed a two year contract, so he will be back this year. However, I do not see him making much of an impact this year. He is a decent short yardage back.
Running Back Analysis: Peyton Hillis
Peyton became known to the Bronco organization when he stepped into the spotlight in 2008 after several backfield injuries. He performed very well for the Shanahan coaches, and his future looked bright. However, everything changed when McDaniels came to the Broncos. Peyton was scarcely used in the running game. He ran just 13 times for 54 yards and a touchdown. His average was 4.2 yards per carry.
For some reason, he was on McDaniels' bad list. He was totally underutilized. McDaniels said the reason Hillis wasn't running the ball more was because they were using him as a fullback blocker. Unfortunately, I see him being traded this offseason. I can see him going to the Redskins where Shanahan is. It is a shame because Hillis is a good talent and has potential.
Overall Grade: C+
While Knowshon played well in his rookie year, there is clearly room for improvement. We had a lot of problems in the short yardage game. We also had plenty of problems at the goal line. It is clear that LaMont isn't going to be the capable short yardage guy who we need. Correll is a finesse runner. Peyton is likely gone. This leaves a need at running back.
Five Possible Solutions
Chester Taylor RB Free Agent from Minnesota Vikings
Le'Ron McClain RB Free Agent from Baltimore Ravens
LenDale White RB Free Agent from Tennessee Titans
Toby Geirhart RB from Stanford
LeGarrette Blount RB from Oregon
Out of these five options, I really like LenDale and Chester the most. LenDale was part of the Smash and Dash combination in Tennessee that made their running game a force to be reckoned with. He is a big back who hits the holes hard and pushes through the line. He would be a great pick up in my opinion. Chester was the second running back on the depth chart in Minnesota behind Adrian Peterson. He is another strong back who would add a great third dimension to the Knowshon-Correll combination.