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Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Denver no longer a rushing power

By Bill Williamson

During the 14-year Mike Shanahan era in Denver, the Broncos' running game was the gold standard in the NFL.

Year after year, no matter who was the lead tailback, Denver was near the top of the NFL in rushing. Running always set up the pass in Denver. That has changed. Three games into the second season of the Josh McDaniels era, the once-vaunted Denver running game is a memory.

Denver averages 2.5 yards per rush attempt, the lowest per-carry average in the league. Denver’s run offense is ranked 30th, averaging just 67 yards a game. Denver’s passing offense is ranked No. 1. A big reason why Denver is 1-2 is because of the lack of balance on offense. McDaniels used Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme last season, but he moved to a more power-blocking scheme this season.

However, Denver has dealt with major injury issues at running back and on the offensive line since the beginning of camp. Starting tailback Knowshon Moreno missed last week’s loss at the Colts with a hamstring injury he suffered at practice last week. Moreno, the No. 12 overall pick in 2009, missed all of August with a hamstring injury. He did not practice Wednesday in Denver. It’s unclear if he will be ready to play at Tennessee on Sunday.

If Moreno can’t play, Correll Buckhalter and newly acquired Laurence Maroney will play against the Titans. Neither player could do much, especially in the red zone, against the Colts.

McDaniels told reporters in Denver on Wednesday that there are no quick fixes to improve a running attack.

“All we can do is work to try and improve it and try to get our players to work together as many times as we can,” McDaniels said. “We have had a lot of people move in and out of those spots -- whether it be upfront (or) in the backfield. I think continuity is something that we are always going to try and strive for, but I don’t want a short-term fix. I think, as you go through the season, you try to build so that you are playing your best football towards the end. Certainly, we have room to improve not only in the running game but in a lot of areas. I think we are focused on just going out there and working hard and trying to fix what we can fix.”

Until that happens, Denver can long longer be known as a premier running team.