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Broncos running amuck

Correll Buckhalter has never carried a team and is frequently on the injury report.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When Coach Mike Shanahan was still in Denver, figuring out the situation at running back was like running a maze - blindfolded. You never had enough information to know what to do.

When Shanahan was fired and replaced by Josh McDaniels, you had to figure that it would be a lot easier to understand who to start and when.

Well it ain't gonna be that easy.

Let's look at what was once a great running back situation and now is just a muddled mess.

It used to be that having a Broncos' running back was "golden" for your fantasy team. Terrell Davis, Clinton Portis, Mike Anderson, Reuben Droughns, Tatem Bell and even Olandis Gary all starred in the role. It didn't seem to matter the talent of the running back, put them behind the Denver offensive line and they ran for 1000+ yards. And it didn't matter who the quarterback was - John Elway, Brian Griese or Jake Plummer - the team still ran the ball.

But the past two seasons have been disappointing ones for fantasy owners. The Broncos went through running backs like the U.S. Senate goes through billions of dollars.

Two years ago the team installed Jay Cutler as it's starting quarterback and things just haven't worked out well for the Broncos' running game. Travis Henry was brought in and Selvin Young, an undrafted free agent from Texas, were set to run the ball, but they couldn't get the job done. Neither running back could crack the 800-yard mark. It was the first time since 2001 that Denver failed to post a 1000-yard rusher and that year saw the Broncos use a triple-headed running back threat in Davis, Gary and Anderson.

But most fantasy owners thought it was a fluke and that the Broncos would return to the running game in 2008. That didn't happen.

Fantasy owners again were disappointed as Cutler and the offense emphasized the passing game to the detriment of the ground game. And to make matters worse, the Broncos running backs were getting hurt seemingly every week. Young got injured, as did, Michael Pittman, Andre Hall, Ryan Torain and Bell. Denver was forced to start fullback Peyton Hillis (best known as a blocking back for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas) as their starting tailback and he was good until he too was injured.

So fantasy owners were hoping that 2009 would be a healthier year for Denver running backs and that they would somehow straighten out the running back situation so that we could start someone each week with confidence.

When the free-agent period opened up, the Broncos signed career-backup Correll Buckhalter to a four-year deal. But Buckhalter has never carried a team and is frequently on the injury report. They also signed J.J. Arrington from Arizona who was third on the depth chart behind an aging Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower. Neither seems to be a "No.1-type" guy.

So all the team has done is add more middle-of-the-road talent to an already crowded position. With Buckhalter, Arrington, Pittman, Young, Hall, Torain and Hillis the running back position is a complete mess.

It will be interesting to see how a first-year coach handles the situation, but obviously at least half of those guys have got to go.

And even when the field is reduced to a more workable level, will the Broncos' be a running team or a passing team? And who will be their quarterback what with all the animosity between Cutler and management?

I'm afraid at this point there is no way of knowing, but I'm prepared to give up on the theory that having a Denver running back is good for my fantasy team.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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