AFC West: Ryan Torain
Our first part is the 2008 class:
First pick: No. 12, left tackle, Ryan Clady
Total picks: 9
Stars: Clady is the standout of this class. He is one of the NFL’s best left tackles and one of the prizes of Denver’s roster as it begins the John Fox era. Receiver Eddie Royal had a great rookie season under Mike Shanahan in 2008 and bounced back with a positive third season after a sluggish 2009 season. There’s still time for him to be a consistent, quality NFL receiver.
Duds: There are no players on this list that stand out as being terrible value picks. However, that doesn’t mean this was a productive draft for the long haul.
Not much left: Shanahan’s final draft class in Denver was one of his best. Denver got great production out of this class in 2008. But once he came to Denver in January 2009, Shanahan’s replacement, Josh McDaniels, had no interest in moving forward with many of Shanahan’s players. McDaniels jettisoned running backs Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain, center Kory Lichtensteiger and cornerback Jack Williams. They all caught on elsewhere and Hillis -- who showed signs of stardom under Shanahan -- has become a star in Cleveland. Promising safety Josh Barrett was lost on waivers because McDaniels didn’t follow normal protocol when the player was put on the injured reserve.
What’s the future of this class? Fox doesn’t have much to work with. Only fullback Spencer Larsen, Clady and Royal remain. They are three good players, but this class had so much promise.
First pick: No. 5, defensive lineman, Glenn Dorsey
Total picks: 12
Stars: Dorsey, left tackle Branden Albert, cornerback Brandon Flowers, running back Jamaal Charles, cornerback Brandon Carr and right tackle Barry Richardson all were key players on the Chiefs’ first AFC West championship team in seven years in 2010.
Duds: There were really not any major whiffs on this list. Third-round pick, tight end Brad Cottam, had dealt with a serious neck injury, but he was showing signs of becoming a decent player before his injury.
The Jared Allen payoff: Albert and Charles were drafted with pieces obtained in the Allen trade with Minnesota. Losing Allen was difficult, but the Chiefs wanted to reload and spend the money it would take to secure Allen. Kansas City received two very good players in the trade. Charles and Albert are the type of talents that can help Kansas City for the much of this decade.
What’s the future of this class? This was the final class of the Carl Peterson era, and it was a good one. A big reason why the Scott Pioli-Todd Haley era looks bright is this class. I’ve heard some league observers say this class was one of the best of its decade. I’m not sure if that will pan out, but if the Chiefs continue to grow as an organization, the 2008 class will be seen as a nucleus draft. It was the best class in the AFC West in 2008.
First pick: No. 4, running back, Darren McFadden
Total picks: 5
Stars: McFadden is the centerpiece of this class. After an injury-plagued two-year start to his NFL career, McFadden became the player he was expected to be when Oakland took him. The former Arkansas star was one of the NFL’s most dynamic running backs in 2010. He is very versatile, and he is a matchup headache. He’s a bright spot for this organization. Safety Tyvon Branch has a nice future. He was better in 2009 than in 2010, but he’s a keeper. Pass-rusher Trevor Scott (sixth round) and receiver Chaz Schilens (seventh round) have potential to be good players.
Duds: McFadden was in danger of being known as a bust, but that notion is off the table. The only pick from this class not on the roster is receiver Arman Shields. He never played for Oakland and that hurt because he was a fourth-round pick, but it wasn’t a colossal loss.
Hall trade hurt: The Raiders gave up second- and fifth-round picks to Atlanta for cornerback DeAngelo Hall. He played eight games in Oakland before the Raiders shocked the league and cut him because of a sluggish start. That second-round pick would have been nice to keep around.
What’s the future of this class? It could end up being a dandy even though it was such a small class. McFadden looks like a star. If Branch can make strides and if Scott and Schilens can become reliable contributors, this will end up being a solid class.
First pick: No. 28, cornerback, Antoine Cason
Total picks: 5
Stars: Cason is the best of this small, uninspiring class. Cason started for the first time in 2010 and showed great promise. He took over for the traded Antonio Cromartie. The assignment wasn’t too big for Cason at all.
Duds: The worst part of this class is that there just wasn't enough that came out of it. Only Cason and fullback/special teams player Jacob Hester are still with the team. The other three picks, taken in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, never made any contribution.
Was Hester worth it? San Diego traded a second-round pick in 2009 and a fifth-round pick in 2008 to take Hester with the No. 69 pick of the draft. San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said at the time that Hester was a longtime target. He replaced Michael Turner, who went to free agency. Hester hasn’t developed into a consistent rushing threat. But he plays often and he has a role on the team. The development of 2008 undrafted rookie Mike Tolbert has limited Hester’s role.
What’s the future of this class? The Chargers will have to hope Cason sticks around as a long-term starter. That way, San Diego could be getting something from this class. This, overall, was the worst class of the division in 2008. Saving this class are undrafted players Tolbert, who could soon get a lucrative new deal from the team, and offensive lineman Brandyn Dombrowski, who provides valuable depth.
Oakland (which currently holds the tiebreaker) and Kansas City are 5-4, San Diego is 4-5 and Denver is 3-6. Every team is in this race, especially considering there are several division games remaining. Oakland and Kansas City each have three games against division foes and San Diego and Denver, who play each other Monday night, have four games within the division remaining.
Who comes out on top could come down to which team runs the ball the best down the stretch. Kansas City and Oakland are atop the NFL in rushing. San Diego's ground game is improving in what has been a transition year. Denver has gone from being a premier running team to being the worst.
Here's a look at each team’s running game and what it has to do the rest of the way:
Where it stands: The Chiefs have the No. 1 running offense in the NFL. They are averaging 165.3 yards a game. Jamaal Charles has 760 yards and Thomas Jones has 573 yards. The Chiefs wear down defenses with Charles, a shifty game-breaker, and Jones, who pounds defenses. This is actually what Kansas City envisioned when it signed the veteran Jones after he was cut by the Jets.
What to expect: The Chiefs' running game was slowed some by Oakland in Week 9 and was held to 51 yards by Denver in a blowout loss. I don’t think this is cause for alarm. The Chiefs ran the ball well at times against the Raiders and because they fell behind 35-0 in the second quarter against Denver, the Chiefs had to abandon the run. The Chiefs are well aware that they are a team that wins on the ground. I expect them to stay committed to the run.
Fun fact: Charles leads the NFL with a 6.0 yards per carry average.
What they’re saying: “There’s no competition [between Jones and Charles],” Jones said. “We help each other get better. I’m here to show him how a veteran does it and he has a real future.”
Where it stands: Oakland is ranked No. 2 in the NFL in rushing, averaging 162.2 yards a game. A big reason why Oakland has won five games is its sophisticated run game. The offensive line gets a lot of credit for improving greatly. Of course, the big reason Oakland is succeeding on the ground is because third-year running back Darren McFadden is having a breakout season. McFadden is tied for seventh in the NFL with 757 rushing yards. McFadden has excelled running inside and outside, proving he is more than just a breakaway threat. According to ESPN Stats and Information, McFadden is leading the NFL with an average of 5.5 yards per carry when running up the middle. Michael Bush complements McFadden well. Bush has 324 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
What to expect: If McFadden, who has missed two games with a hamstring injury, can stay healthy, I expect this run offense to be strong down the stretch. If McFadden gets hurt, Oakland will have to rely heavily on Bush. If McFadden finishes strong and Oakland wins the division, he could be in the NFL MVP conversation.
Fun fact: McFadden leads the NFL in per-game rushing average with 108.1 yards per game.
What they’re saying: “Oakland really impresses me on the ground,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. “They will be in a lot of games because of that ground attack. The Raiders have some nice schemes and they are very dedicated to the run.”
Where it stands: The Chargers’ run game is a work in progress. It is better than it was last year in LaDainian Tomlinson's final season in San Diego. Last year, San Diego was ranked No. 31 on the ground. This year, the Chargers are averaging 107.8 yards on the ground and are ranked No. 16. San Diego has the No. 1 ranked passing game and the No. 1 overall offense. The run game is not hurting the Chargers, but 2010 No. 1 pick Ryan Mathews has been bothered by an ankle injury that has limited him to 87 carries. However, he is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The physical Mike Tolbert and the elusive Darren Sproles give this ground game options.
What to expect: If Mathews can get healthly, I think this can be a dangerous running attack. The combination of Mathews, Tolbert and Sproles is a good one. San Diego’s passing game doesn’t need much help, but if this becomes a consistent running team, San Diego’s offense could be nearly unstoppable. Yes, Tomlinson is doing well with the Jets, but the Chargers’ run game appears better off with this new look. It was clear after last season that both the Chargers and Tomlinson needed to move on separately.
Fun fact: Mathews leads all rookie rushers with 382 yards.
What they’re saying: “Well, I wish [Mathews] was healthy, and I wish he didn’t fumble the ball, which everybody talks about but that just comes with the territory when you put the ball on the ground,” San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said in a radio interview. "But yeah, he is extremely talented. I think that was pretty obvious to us when he became a Charger, even in minicamp and in the games that he has played. But we would love for him to be just healthy the whole time. But I knew when he had the ankle early, that that could be a problem through the season and it looks like we are kind of just working our way through that right now. And he is working his way through it.”
What to expect: There may be hope that Denver can start running the ball and give the NFL’s second-ranked passing offense some much-needed support. The Broncos ran for a season-high 154 yards against the Chiefs in Denver’s 49-29 upset win Sunday. The Broncos had more yards in the first quarter against the Chiefs than they had in five of their first eight games. Second-year running back Knowshon Moreno had 106 rushing yards. It was his first career 100-yard game. Denver’s offensive line was healthy for the first time, which resulted in a successful running attack. Now, there is legitimate hope that Denver's running game could be a positive for the rest of the season.
Fun fact: Denver 2008 draft picks Petyon Hillis of Cleveland (726 yards) and Ryan Torain of Washington (391) have more yards than 2009 No. 1 pick Moreno (358).
What they’re saying: “We only had one negative run all day,” McDaniels told reporters the day after the win over the Chiefs. “That’s really meaning you get the [running] back to the line of scrimmage without having a whole bunch of people to avoid. I think we did that for the most part. [Moreno] ran the ball well downhill, made some people miss at the second level and really, he kind of got into a rhythm, which was good for him and good for the running game. I think the linemen felt like they were in a rhythm too yesterday. We didn’t use that many schemes, we just tried to do a few things a little bit better than what we’ve done and I think yesterday, they did a good job of executing our game plan.”
Falling: Josh McDaniels, head coach: First, it doesn’t matter that McDaniels’ stock is falling. He is still fully expected to return to Denver for his third season. Denver ownership is not going to pay McDaniels, former coach Mike Shanahan and a new coach in 2011. Still, McDaniels is on the hot seat in the minds of Denver fans. There have been constant calls for McDaniels’ head since the 45-point loss to Oakland. After McDaniels started 6-0 last season, the Broncos are 4-14 and don’t appear to be headed in the right direction. McDaniels has also caught heat for several personnel decisions. It is not helping his cause that young castoffs Peyton Hillis, Ryan Torain and Alphonso Smith are excelling elsewhere.
Rising: Denver’s passing game: McDaniels deserves credit for the success of the passing game. The Broncos stayed in games early in the season through the air. Denver quarterback Kyle Orton is having a terrific season. Orton has made great strides in his two seasons in Denver under McDaniels. Orton truly has been a top-tier quarterback this season. Denver’s receiving group has been excellent as well. Journeyman Brandon Lloyd is having an All-Pro season. He's having the best season of his NFL career at the age of 29.
Midseason MVP: Orton. Name 10 quarterbacks who are better than Orton right now. It’s tough to do.
Outlook: This has all the feel of being a lost season in Denver. After last season’s collapse, the Broncos didn’t have the type of offseason that made league observers think this team could quickly climb back into contention. Then, injuries battered the Broncos in training camp and the preseason. It just doesn’t seem like Denver can come back and be a factor this season. In the end, 2010 may be go down as one of the most forgettable years in Broncos' history.
In the past five days, McDaniels’ name has been more connected to Wade Phillips.
That’s what happens after one of the worst days in team history. McDaniels was in charge of the Broncos on Sunday when they were dismantled at home 59-14 by the rival Oakland Raiders. The Raiders came into the game with a 2-4 record, coming off a loss to the previously winless San Francisco 49ers and they were playing their backup quarterback.
It was a total embarrassment. The sold-out Invesco Field at Mile High crowd departed early in droves. Those who stayed until the bitter end savaged McDaniels as he left the field. It reminded longtime residents of the Rocky Mountains of the abuse Phillips took when Oakland beat the Broncos by 32 points in 1994.
That was Phillips’ second and final season as Denver’s coach. Denver owner Pat Bowlen quickly ended the Phillips era and hired Shanahan, who had a mostly good 14-year run before he was replaced by McDaniels after a late-season collapse in 2008.
McDaniels’ popularity in Denver was uneven prior to the Oakland game. He caught the ire of some fans for the handling of the departures of standouts Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall. But others liked the energy of McDaniels, 34, and liked the direction he was taking the offense. In short, the jury was still out on McDaniels, whose team was competitive in the early stages of the 2010 season, even though it was 2-4.
But Denver doesn’t take kindly to being blown out by the Raiders at home. In the days since the loss, talk radio in Denver has been dominated by fans who are calling for his head. Readers have flooded my AFC West mailbag daily this week with questions about McDaniels’ job security. Adam Schefter addressed the suddenly hot-button subject this week in his mailbag on ESPN.com.
McDaniels was asked about fan frustration in his news conference Wednesday. He didn’t shy away from the subject.
“It bothers me because I understand the frustration and the passion of the people in this state, in this city and in this organization,” McDaniels said. “I think that we mirror that here. The players do, the staff does, I do -- I know that [Bowlen], [chief operating officer] Joe [Ellis] and everybody does. The best way for us to try to help remedy that is to work and to win."
The following is an examination of the pros and cons of Denver moving away from McDaniels at the end of this season.
Pros of firing McDaniels
The Oakland loss: This was a legacy defeat. It will be the signature game of McDaniels’ Denver tenure until he reaches the playoffs. You can’t be in charge of a team that has taken this type of whipping and make observers believe your team is going in the right direction.
Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. came away with this observation after the loss to the Raiders: “This thing was over in the first quarter, and the Broncos did not tackle, they did not play with any gap discipline and there was very little pride in this performance. And this kind of a loss can have lasting implications all season.”
McDaniels apologized to ownership, the team and fans after the loss. It is clear he knows the potential ramifications of the game.
4-13: McDaniels’ troubles extend beyond the loss to the Raiders. Since his team opened the 2009 season with a 6-0 run to begin his NFL head-coaching career, the Broncos have been one of the worst teams in the NFL. Denver is 4-13 since the 6-0 start.
Seventeen games is a large enough sample size to conclude that these are the real Broncos under McDaniels and not the team that started 6-0 (and ended up blowing a 3.5-game lead in the AFC West).
Another damaging statistic is that the Broncos are 0-4 at home against AFC West opponents under McDaniels. The Broncos were almost always competitive under Shanahan. That has not been the case so far under McDaniels. It is a legitimate question to ask if it will ever happen.
Questionable decisions: McDaniels is one of Denver’s primary decision-makers despite him never being in that role before.
Of course, his most scrutinized decision came before he ever roamed the sideline in Denver. McDaniels traded Cutler, a 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback, after the two fought when Cutler caught wind of McDaniels wanting to trade for Matt Cassel, who excelled for him in New England in 2008. Cutler was sent to Chicago for a load of draft picks after a five-week saga.
This offseason, McDaniels traded Marshall to Miami. While Marshall and McDaniels had their issues, Marshall had plenty of problems in Denver in his three seasons in Denver before McDaniels came to town.
McDaniels has had so-so success in free agency and the draft. In 2009, McDaniels traded Denver’s 2010 No. 1 pick (No. 14) to take cornerback Alphonso Smith in the second round. After Smith struggled as a rookie and in camp this summer, he was shipped to Detroit for a reserve tight end on cut day in September.
McDaniels also has jettisoned two running backs from Shanahan’s final draft class in Denver -- Peyton Hillis and Ryan Torain. Both youngsters are playing well elsewhere while Denver has the NFL’s worst-ranked run offense. Days after tackle Tyler Polumbus was cut and claimed by Detroit this summer, the Lions flipped him to Seattle for a draft pick.
Moves such as these have all made observers question if the task is too big for McDaniels at this point of his career.
Passing offense: There’s no denying McDaniels’ ability to coach offense, especially in the passing game. He has made quarterback Kyle Orton -- a throw-in in the Cutler trade -- a legitimate standout quarterback.
Receiver Brandon Lloyd has enjoyed career resurgence under McDaniels, and receiver Demaryius Thomas looks to have a future in the NFL. Denver could be explosive under McDaniels, who was the architect New England’s record-breaking offense in 2007.
Rash of injuries: Prior to the Oakland game, it was fairly impressive that the Broncos had been competitive in three of their four losses because all of the injuries the Broncos have endured.
The injuries started early in camp. The biggest blow was when Pro Bowl linebacker Elvis Dumervil was lost for the season with a pectoral injury a week into camp. Dumervil is Denver’s best defensive player and he led the NFL with 17 sacks last year.
Several players, including starter Knowshon Moreno, have dealt with injuries. It seems every week the Broncos have been dealing with a significant injury. Yes, that is part of life in the NFL, but perhaps McDaniels will buy some time because of the onslaught of injuries.
Tebow Factor: McDaniels' decision to draft Tim Tebow could end up being a reason to fire him. Or it could end up being a reason to keep him. McDaniels should get a chance to develop Tebow, whom McDaniels took at No. 25 in April after dealing three picks for the former Florida quarterback.
While Tebow was a polarizing draft figure, McDaniels had no reservations. He thinks Tebow can be a star. But it may take time for him to develop. Orton was given a one-year contract extension during the summer, so Tebow probably won’t get a chance to start until 2012.
I’m not sure Denver’s brass will want to fire McDaniels before he proves he can make Tebow a franchise quarterback, and McDaniels’ track record working with quarterbacks is intriguing. There’s no guarantee any coach who replaces McDaniels would be a believer in Tebow.
Conclusion: I generally think an NFL coach deserves three seasons to build a program, and I think that is the case with McDaniels. I do know Denver’s ownership really likes McDaniels and trusts him. There has been silence from the top in Denver in the days since the Oakland debacle, but that is to be expected.
I think he is safe, unless, of course, there are a few more humiliations like the Oakland loss in Denver’s final 10 games. McDaniels didn’t do himself any favors with this loss, but talk of his demise may be premature at this point.
- Former Denver tight end Tony Scheffler said he will not give his hometown Detroit Lions any problems.
- ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports both the Eagles and the Packers are interested in moving up to the No. 10-12 range Thursday. The Broncos are sitting at No. 11 and could be interested in trading down.
- Here is a thought that says Oakland could end up with Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell. Oakland is reportedly interested in him. If he was released, there would be little risk for Oakland in this deal.
- New Redskins coach Mike Shanahan signed former Denver running back Ryan Torain. Shanahan loved Torain, who he drafted in 2008. But Torain has been riddled by injuries.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
Oakland coach Tom Cable does not think the fact that he is being investigated for breaking the jaw of assistant coach Randy Hanson is distracting the team.
Shortly after the story broke, I asked Oakland leader Nnamdi Asomugha about it and he said it was not a distraction to the team. He said no one was talking about it. The Raiders aren’t winning because they are a mess on the field, not because of Cable’s off-field issue.
- A potential ownership group from Los Angeles has its eye on seven NFL teams, including the Raiders and Chargers. Don’t fret, Chargers’ and Raiders’ fans, a lot would have to happen for this to become a reality.
- Former Denver running back Ryan Torain is working out in Green Bay on Tuesday. Former Oakland receiver Ronald Curry worked out in Baltimore on Monday.
- The Chargers returned from their bye Monday, realizing the urgency of their game next Monday night against Denver.
- Kansas City coach Todd Haley praised linebacker Demorrio Williams for his play against Dallas. Williams has overtaken Derrick Johnson because of his performance.
- Denver coach Josh McDaniels gave his team Monday off after it beat New England on Sunday. It was the first time McDaniels gave his 5-0 team a Monday off this season. Yes, beating the Patriots was special for the former New England offensive coordinator.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
The Chiefs signed linebacker David Herron and cornerback Mike Richardson on Wednesday.
Both players have a history with New England and now Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli. Herron was with the Patriots for one week in 2007 and Richardson was a sixth-round pick of New England in 2007.`
The Chiefs took a look at former Green Bay tackle Mark Tauscher. He is an interesting player. He suffered a major knee injury last December. If healthy, he could be a good fit for Kansas City, which needs tackles. The Chiefs tried out former Philadelphia tackle Jon Runyan three weeks ago.
Oakland brought back return man Justin Miller. He was cut in September, but was brought back because Oakland has several injuries.
Former Oakland running back Louis Rankin was signed to Seattle’s practice squad. Oakland cut him Saturday.
Former Denver running back Ryan Torain worked out in Miami. It was his first workout since Denver cut him after he had a knee injury in August.
In an ESPN.com MVP watch, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is 6th and Denver linebacker Elvis Dumervil is 10th.
Kansas City is heading into the practice week with four quarterbacks on the roster even with Matt Cassel healthy. The backups are Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Gutierrez. Carrying four quarterbacks is a rarity in the NFL. But if there is an injury elsewhere, Thigpen could be decent trade bait. So, the Chiefs may want to keep the three backups for awhile.
To make room for defensive tackle Alfonso Boone, the team released defensive end Andre Coleman, who has been bouncing back and forth from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
The Chargers announced they have 2,500 tickets to sell by Thursday’s deadline to avoid a local television blackout for Sunday’s game against visiting Miami.
Former Denver running back Ryan Torain is healthy and ready to sign elsewhere. Several teams have expressed interest in Torain. He was cut by Denver after spraining his knee. He has had three significant injuries in the past year.
Veteran tackle Jon Runyan remains unsigned. He tried out with the Chiefs two weeks ago.
The Shawne Merriman-Chad Ochocinco Twitter spat has continued. They two went at it Twitter style during the summer. The Chargers and Bengals play Dec.20.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Jeff Garcia is missing more camp time. Garcia just hasn't gotten enough work to make a strong preseason push at JaMarcus Russell's job. That's a good thing for the Raiders. Russell needs to be the guy and he needs as much practice time as possible.
Plus, Garcia is a professional. If Russell struggles during the season, he'll be ready to go if needed.
Raiders coach Tom Cable hinted that running back Darren McFadden may get 20-plus carries a game. If McFadden can handle it, the Raiders should go for it. McFadden is a special weapon and he can change games. He needs to be on the field as much as possible.
The Denver Post looks at the Kyle Orton-Chris Simms situation. Really, it's not a situation -- yet. But if Orton has another horrible performance like his three-interception preseason debut, the Simms' talk may become more valid.
The Broncos reached an injury settlement with running back Ryan Torain. He was cut Wednesday after he suffered a knee injury. Torain is expected to heal in 3-4 weeks.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Broncos have waived/injured running back Ryan Torain. Denver coach Josh McDaniels announced the move after Denver's training camp practice Wednesday.
The team signed running back Marcus Thomas to take Torain's place. Torain suffered a strained PCL in his right knee Tuesday. Had he been kept on the roster, he would have to miss the rest of the preseason. Torain will likely get an injury settlement.
The oft-injured Torain will try to hook up with another team when he heals.
On Wednesday morning, the Broncos discovered that Torain had suffered a PCL strain in his right knee.
He had stayed healthy for the first 16 days of training camp. Torain, who was fighting for a roster spot, is expected to be out for the rest of the preseason.
A fifth-round pick last year, Torain was plagued by injuries at Arizona State. He suffered a left elbow injury in training camp last season that kept him out for three months and then he tore the ACL in his left knee in his first significant action during the regular season.
Denver signed running back Marcus Thomas on Wednesday. The team did not announce a corresponding roster move. If a move is being made on Torain, options include him being put on injured reserve or being waived/injured. I will give updates as the story developments.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Ryan Torain just wants stay healthy.
That's the key for him. The hard-luck tailback has practiced without any injury issues for more than two weeks. That's his NFL record.
Torain, highly coveted by the previous regime in Denver as a fifth round selection out of Arizona State last year, was starring early in camp last season and former Denver coach Mike Shanahan compared him to former Denver star running back Terrell Davis.
Then, Torain, 23, who fought the injury bug in college, suffered an elbow surgery in camp and it cost him three months. Torain came back and had 12 carries for 68 yards and was dominating the Browns. But he tore his ACL in the game, ending his season.
The former Shanahan golden boy became buried on the Denver depth chart as new Denver coach Josh McDaniels brought in several running backs, including first-round pick Knowshon Moreno. If Torain has a future in Denver, he will have to work his way up. He hasn't been getting many repetitions lately. However, his biggest goal is to stay healthy.
'If I can keep practicing and stay healthy, everything is going to work out well," Torain said. "I know I have a lot of competition to make this team, but I feel like I have the ability. I just have to stay healthy and show I can do it."
Defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey, the No. 5 overall draft pick in the 2008 draft, was one of the players who failed new coach Todd Haley's conditioning test Friday. Thus, Dorsey will not be allowed to practice until he passes the test. The Chiefs start camp Saturday.
Having a high-profile player fail the test and still have to sit out, shows the rest of the team how much Haley means business and how serious he is about conditioning.
Disgruntled receiver Brandon Marshall and running back Ryan Torain, who is coming off an injury-plagued season, both starred in Denver's first full training camp practice. Give credit to Marshall for playing well despite his plea to be traded. Torain has a chance to impress the new staff with top pick, running back Knowshon Moreno holding out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
It's time to review last year's AFC West rookie draft class and look ahead to the class of 2009:
The early star: Left tackle Ryan Clady. The Broncos had a great overall class, but Clady stood out. In reality, Clady was among the NFL's best rookies. He was dominant each week, excelled in both pass and run protection and appears to be a superstar.
Best value pick: Running back Peyton Hillis, a seventh-round pick. Yet, he was Denver's best running back before suffering an injury. He is a versatile player. Hillis will likely be the starting fullback this season. Coaches love his toughness.
Who needs to pick it up? Cornerback Jack Williams. The fourth-round pick will likely lose the nickel cornerback job to 2009 second-round pick Alphonso Smith. Williams showed some promise, but he is going to have to take his game to the next level if he wants to compete with Smith.
Keep an eye on: Running back Ryan Torain. Torain dealt with two major injuries last season and will try to make an impression in a crowded backfield. He has ability and was a favorite of the previous coaching regime. If healthy, Torain can make some noise.
Grade thus far: A.
This could go down as the best class in team history.
The early star: Cornerback Brandon Flowers. The second-round pick played very well as a rookie. He is a playmaker who is smart and plays beyond his years. Flowers has the look of a player who will start in the NFL for 10 to 12 years.
Best value pick: Cornerback Brandon Carr. The fifth-round pick was a starter all season. He is a fine player who will likely continue to get better. If things go well, the Chiefs will be in good shape with Flowers and Carr for years to come.
Who needs to pick it up? Defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey: The No. 5 overall draft pick is not a bust, but he needs to make a bigger impact than he did as a rookie. He was average but not as special as expected. He is transitioning to a 3-4 defense in which he will likely play defensive end. Dorsey may not be in a perfect fit, but he is a talented player and needs to take his game to the next level now.
Keep an eye on: Left tackle Branden Albert: The No. 15 overall pick get better as the season progressed. The Chiefs expect him to be the anchor of their offensive line in 2009. If he stays healthy, expect Albert to play very well.
Grade thus far: B
The Chiefs' overall development depends on this talented class. If it makes strides in 2009, the building process will be shorter.
The early star: Running back Darren McFadden. Although he was hampered by injuries last season, it was clear that McFadden is a dynamic running back. He can be a terrific change-of-pace player, and he can be dangerous in Oakland's strong backfield.
Best value pick: Wide receiver Chaz Schilens. The seventh-round pick is expected to be a starter. He started in the second half of last season and that experience should help him immensely. He has the skill set of an elite receiver.
Who needs to pick it up? Wide receiver Arman Shields. This is a tad unfair because Shields was injured all of last season. But it was a small class and the Raiders will need Shields to perform at a thin receiver position.
UPDATE: Shields was cut Wednesday afternoon as Oakland got down to the 80-man limit. He didn't pass his physical. This hurts Oakland. The Raiders need all the young receivers they can get and he was a fourth-round pick last season. That's not good.
Keep an eye on: Defensive end Trevor Scott. Scott showed signs of being a dangerous pass-rusher as he had five sacks last season. Expect him to be a terror on third downs if his development continues. The sixth-round pick could be a major steal.
Grade thus far: C
The Raiders class was small, but there is some potentially dynamic talent here.
The early star: Cornerback Antoine Cason. Cason played very well as the nickel cornerback last season. He is a ball hawk and a very polished player. He has a chance to be a star.
Best value pick: Cason. He was the No. 28 overall pick last season. He made an immediate impact for a team that had a small draft class. He was well worth it.
Who needs to pick it up? Tackle Corey Clark. This is harsh, but with just three 2008 draft picks on the 2009 roster, Clark needs to eventually make an impact. It may not be this year, but the team needs him and likes him.
Keep an eye on: Fullback Jacob Hester. He has gotten bigger and stronger this offseason. Expect him to have a big role in the offense as the starting fullback. He can occasionally help as a runner and as a receiver.
Grade thus far: C
The Chargers had a small class but Cason and Hester make it decent.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The Broncos' difficult offseason with running back J.J. Arrington came to a head Wednesday when the team released him.
Arrington, signed to be a third-down back in Denver, was released because he failed a physical. He had a knee injury he suffered with Arizona. He was recovering from the injury when Denver signed him earlier this offseason. Apparently, he was cut after he could not participate in a passing camp this week.
Arrington's time in Denver was ill fated. He was signed on the first day of free agency but the deal was voided by the league because of contractual issues. Arrington eventually signed a four year, $10 million deal with Denver. He received a $100,000 signing bonus and a $1.7 million roster bonus. He could conceivably sign back with Denver when his knee problem heals.
Denver certainly doesn't have a shortage of running backs. It drafted Knowshon Moreno with the No. 12 overall pick. New Denver coach Josh McDaniels has said Moreno has potential to be a three-down back. The team also signed veterans LaMont Jordan and Correll Buckhalter during free agency. The team also has holdovers Ryan Torain and Peyton Hillis