Denver Broncos: Who Will and Won't Be Carrying The Rock Next Year

Michael Keller@@MichaelK_NFLAnalyst IIIJanuary 19, 2011

Denver Broncos: Who Will and Won't Be Carrying The Rock Next Year

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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos hands the ball off to running back Knowshon Moreno #27 against the San Diego Chargers at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Get
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Now that the Denver Broncos front office is in place and most of the coaching staff has been named, it is time to look at who will be on the roster for next season.

    Denver had its worst rushing season in the history of the team last year. 1554 yards is a pretty good season for a RB, but for an entire team?

    We were out rushed almost 2 to 1 and only scored 13 TDs on the ground. That might work for the Colts but not for the Broncos.

    Improvements must be made and I am sure they will under new head coach John Fox. He is a running back's dream as a coach.

    I already addressed the potential free agents that might come in to add to the QB position which didn't seem to be of much interest to my fellow B/R readers, but let's take a look at the RBs, shall we?

YES: Knowshon Moreno

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    DENVER - NOVEMBER 14:  Running back Knowshon Moreno #27 of the Denver Broncos jumps over a pile of defenders and past linebacker Derrick Johnson #56 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter at INVESCO Field at Mile High on November 14, 2010 in
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    This is truly a Good News/Bad News situation.

    Moreno showed flashes last season of why the recently departed "Mastermind" McDaniels drafted him so high, with some nifty moves and a few tough runs up the middle.

    But with the worst rushing 'attack' -- I use that word loosely --, Moreno had 779 yards on 182 carries for a 4.3 YPC average and only 5 TDs.

    Granted, he had another 372 yards receiving and 3 TDs but being the featured back, and one that was supposed to turbocharge this offense, those aren't exactly Canton numbers.

    Yes, we had a poor blocking scheme and a weak offensive line most of the season, but for a high first round draft choice, this wasn't a promising second year.

    Add to that, both the Denver QBs had a higher YPC average than Knowshon. Not a good sign for Moreno or the offense.

    But maybe my biggest issue with Moreno is his propensity to find his way into the training room. Which is where he spent a lot his time this past season and preseason, healing.

    He seems to be cursed with fragile hamstrings and with his size (5'11" 210 pounds), he just isn't built to take the punishment of an every down back.

    Plus he can't get those tough short yard first downs or those First and Goal TDs.

    He will need some serious help next year.

PROBABLY: Spencer Larsen

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 12:  Spencer Larsen #46 of the Denver Broncos is tackled by Justin Durant #56 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the NFL season opener game at EverBank Field on September 12, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Green
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    I know, I know, Larsen is listed as a FB and that may or may not determine whether he is on the roster next year. A lot will depend on what Fox wants in his FB and whether Larsen will be that person.

    But he is a beast, at 6'2" 243 pounds. He also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and actually had 1 TD receiving this season. But I didn't think he was properly used in the short Josh experiment here in Denver.

    Another potential for his staying around is that Larsen is also "Mr. Trivia" in a Broncos uniform. He is the only player in the modern era to actually start the same game as a FB and as a LB.

    Plus he is a great special teams player.

    Personally, I hope he sticks around. I like his intensity and quiet but tough demeanor.

MAYBE: Lance Ball

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    DENVER, CO - JANUARY 2:  Running back Lance Ball #35 of the Denver Broncos breaks through a hole of San Diego defenders during the second quarter at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Ball, a second year player out of Maryland, Lance has spent a lot of his brief career on the Practice Squad.

    But he got his chance this season when Moreno had yet another of his injuries and actually showed some ability.

    He ran for 151 yards on 41 attempts and a 3.9 YPC average. Not great but then he only had carries in 8 games and was a second or third choice in those games.

    He is stronger than Moreno at 5'9" and 220 pounds and showed to be a capable blocker in the backfield. Something else that I didn't see much of from Knowshon.

    Knowing the system and being on the good side of OC McCoy and RB coach Studesville might allow him another year as a Bronco next season.

MAYBE: Correll Buckhalter

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Runningback Correll Buckhalter #28 of the Denver Broncos is unable to catch a pass under pressure from Rashad Johnson #49 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 12, 2010 i
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    "Buck" didn't have one of his better years and, like Moreno was injured in the preseason and nicked up during the regular season as well. He finished with 147 yards on 59 attempts for a paltry 2.9 YPC average and had 2 TDs running the rock.

    Correll also had 240 yards receiving out of the backfield and another 2 TDs. And this is where his value lies. He has soft hands and knows how to get open out of the backfield and is a very good blocker.

    All valuable traits on any team but especially one that wants a better run/pass balance.

    The major question facing the team next season is his age: Buck will be 33 and entering his 11th season. That is a lifetime-and-a-half for a RB.

    So the jury (Fox and company) is still out on Mr. Buckhalter's continued tenure in a Broncos uniform. But no matter what happens, I have appreciated the effort and the leadership he provided this team in a very difficult time.

    Thanks, Buck!

MAYBE: LenDale White

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    DENVER - AUGUST 29:  Running back LenDale White #26 of the Denver Broncos rushes against the Pittsburgh Steelers during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 29, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    If it wasn't for bad luck, LenDale wouldn't have any luck at all.

    He was given a third chance to resurrect his career by signing with the Broncos and then was hurt in the last preseason game.

    But before his injury, he was showing some of the bruising running ability he did at USC and early in his NFL career. He is 6'1" and 235 pounds of decent speed and great power.

    He has also shown a great nose for the goal inside the 10 yard line. He scored 52 TDs in his 3 years at USC, and that was sharing time with Reggie Bush.

    He has scored 24 TDs in his four active years with the Tennessee Titans.

    His chances of staying a Bronco are decent if his Achilles is fully healed and whether or not Fox and Studesville like what they see in his rehab efforts and his attitude going into training camp.

FORGET ABOUT IT: Laurence Maroney

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    Courtesy of TMZ
    Courtesy of TMZ

    Every picture tells a story.

    Laurence Maroney, arrested in St. Louis, MO on marijuana and illegal firearms possession.

    Denver Bronco career: Done

    NFL Career: Done

    Another of McHoody's brilliant "Character" guy mistakes.

FREE AGENT MAYBE: DeAngelo Williams

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29: DeAngelo Williams #34 of the Carolina Panthers runs the ball against the New York Jetson November 29, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Panthers 17-6.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Get
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    I have always admired DeAngelo Williams from afar in his career. He runs with power and agility. He can make people miss but he can also bull them over inside.

    At 5'11" 217 pounds, he is a very fast fireplug waiting and wanting to hit someone. And I like that in my RBs.

    Granted, he didn't have a very productive 2010 season, but then neither did the Carolina Pussycats, er. Panthers. He lost carries to both Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson and finished with 361 yards on 87carries for a 4.1 YPC and 1 TD. And he did have 1 receiving TD.

    But this was in a short 6 game season, due to his foot injury that kept him inactive for much of the year.

    Don't forget that it was only 3 years ago that he had over 1500 yards and 18 TDs on the ground. I do like those numbers!

    Being an-ex Carolina player and a good all around RB, I see the distinct possibility that he could be wearing predominantly Orange and Blue next season.

    Odds to be in a Bronco uniform: Decent


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    SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 31:  Tight end Antonio Gates (L) #85 and Running back Darren Sproles #43 of the San Diego Chargers celebrate Sproles' touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on October 31, 2010 in San Diego, Ca
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Wouldn't it be cool to watch all the Chargers heads explode when Sproles runs back a kickoff for a TD and then has a few receiving, in a Broncos uniform?

    This little engine that could is fun to watch and can literally get lost in the pile and come out the other side running away from everyone. But when you are 5'6" 190 pounds, you can do those kinds of things.

    In five seasons he has had six rushing TDs, 11 receiving TDs and four P/KO returns for TDs.

    He wouldn't be an every down back by any means but he sure could add to the excitement and enjoyment every time he touched the ball.

    Not likely but fun to think about.


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    BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 20:  Daniel Thomas #8 of the Kansas State Wildcats rushes with the ball against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field on November 20, 2010 in Boulder, Colorado. Colorado defeated Kansas State 44-36.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Thomas, out of Kansas State has the size (6'2", 228 pounds) to be that inside back and is a touchdown machine, having scored 15 TDs this season and 30 in his 2 year career.

    That said, the knock on him is his rather upright running style that will get his legs knocked out in the NFL. But he showed some improvement in that area towards the end of this season and can improve even more with good coaching.

    He also hasn't been a receiving threat out of the backfield but he wasn't used that way at K-State. But with his height and size, he would be a linebacker or CBs worst nightmare out of the backfield if he has any decent hands.

    But it would take a late second or early third round pick and Denver needs defensive help before a college RB taken that high.

    Very low percentage for Thomas being in a Denver Bronco uniform.


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    LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 26: Roy Helu Jr. #10 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers weaves his way though the Colorado Buffalo defense during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 26, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Colorado 45-17 (Photo by Eric Fra
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    I know this isn't a sexy suggestion. Helu is one of those players that make you go "Who?" when brought up in water cooler conversation.

    But Mr. Helu, Jr. has quietly put together a pretty decent college career.He had 3404 yards on 578 carries and 27 TDs. He had 1,245 yards and 11 TDs for a whopping 6.6 YPC this past year, sharing time with sophomore sensation Rex Burkhead.

    He hasn't been a threat out of the backfield because that hasn't been a major weapon in Nebraska's arsenal. Can he catch the ball? I think he can and he is a smart and dedicated individual.

    He would probably be available in the fifth or sixth round and might just be a good gamble. 

    Odds to be a Bronco: Low to medium

Running Backs: The Final Roster?

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    ENGLEWOOD, CO - JANUARY 14:  Denver Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway (L), owner Pat Bowlen and new head coach John Fox share a laugh before Fox addressed the media at Dove Valley on January 14, 2011 in Englewood, Colorado. Fox was
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    As much change that has happened on this team this past few weeks and the huge rebuilding project ahead, it is difficult to project what will and will not happen.

    But as far as the RB position goes, I will go out on a limb and predict the roster at the start of the regular season.

    The players below could be running the rock but the offensive line will have to take some major steps forward to make a huge difference.

    Active Roster:

    RB Knowshon Moreno

    RB Lance Ball

    RB LenDale White

    RB DeAngelo WIlliams

    FB Spencer Larsen

    FB/H-Back Richard Quinn or Daniel Coates

    Practice Squad:

    RB Roy Helu, Jr.

    RB Jeremiah Johnson (Sorry, I just loved that movie with Robert Redford)

    But those three guys in this picture should at least have a smile on their faces when the 2011 season is over because we WILL have brought back the running game to Denver.

    Just one Bronco fan(atic)'s opinion.

    OK, Fire away! I can take it!


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