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Training Camp Primer: Running Backs

Posted Jul 16, 2010

In the weeks leading up to training camp, DenverBroncos.com will take you inside the roster, position-by-position. Today's third installment in the eight-part series examines running backs.


Editor's Note: In the weeks leading up to training camp, DenverBroncos.com will take you inside the roster, position-by-position. Today's third installment in the eight-part series examines running backs.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Correll Buckhalter has reason to get excited when discussing his first season in Denver.

After eight years in Philadelphia, the running back responded to the new environment by producing his best statistical season in 2009.

Sharing the workload with Knowshon Moreno, who led all rookies in rushing yards and touchdowns, Buckhalter helped spearhead one of the league's most balanced rushing attacks.

What's more surprising is that Buckhalter gets even more passionate when discussing the upcoming season.

Buoyed by a year to grasp the offensive system and time for coaches to understand the returning players' strengths, Buckhalter doesn't hesitate displaying even more confidence entering 2010.

While the running back corps has been tweaked with several additions and departures, the duo of Moreno and Buckhalter expect to see much of the action and produce even better results in their second season together.

"I feel great in this offense," Buckhalter said recently. "We do a lot of great things. I think (Head) Coach (Josh) McDaniels is a genius, and as long as everybody is doing their job, we'll be OK this year."

Last season the rotation proved beneficial for both of the Broncos' primary ball carriers.

Buckhalter, who battled injuries at times with the Eagles, finished with career highs in rushing yards (642), yards per carry (5.4) and receptions (31), while playing at least 14 games for the fourth straight season.

Moreno, the 2009 draft's 12th overall pick, handled the bulk of the attempts, bursting onto the NFL scene with 947 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns as part of the league's No. 18 rushing attack.

The buzz around Dove Valley this offseason has centered on Moreno building off a debut season in which he became just the fifth Bronco to lead all rookies in rushing.

The young back spent the past few months working out to better handle the rigors of a professional season and watching tape of his rookie campaign. Moreno said as much as it has pained him to watch himself miss running lanes and bungle passing protections, he's sure the process has only made him better.

"(Moreno's) in his second year and he knows more what to do," McDaniels said when assessing Moreno's offseason progress. "He's able to communicate with other players if something's not right, and he can help us get it right."

Moreno, who is still seeking his first NFL 100-yard rushing game, hopes to bump up his 3.8 yards per carry average. But even after breaking off just two runs longer than 20 yards last season, he said he feels no additional pressure to set specific performance goals in his second year.

"You really can't plan for (big running plays)," Moreno said. "That was last year, and it's a new slate now. Let's just start something new and get better."

Buckhalter said the time for running backs to adjust to a new offense can be especially beneficial.

The 6-foot, 223-pound back no longer has to rack his mind to remember assignments on individual plays. He said during the June minicamp that his pre-snap routine is now becoming more natural, which gives him more time to analyze the defense.

McDaniels said the game will continue to slow down for Moreno, leading to fewer mental mistakes and more consistent play. During OTAs, the head coach has been particularly impressed with Moreno's improvements in the receiving game -- another sign the Georgia product's game is becoming more well-rounded.

Behind them are less proven commodities, including J.J. Arrington, who hopes to prove his value as a third-down back and kick returner after being out of football last season. McDaniels has said he will use more two-back sets this season, which likely means more action for Spencer Larsen, the roster's lone fullback.

As training camp approaches, it's clear that balance remains one of the group's greatest assets.

That's particularly exciting at this time of year.

Buckhalter said the running backs' mix of competition and camaraderie will only make everyone better going forward.

"We're a tight group," Buckhalter said. "Whenever you're a running back, you have to be part of a cohesive group. I think we're just going to have a good game plan for teams this year with me and (Moreno) in the backfield."

MEET THE RUNNING BACKS

  • J.J. Arrington - The fifth-year back signed with the Broncos before last season but missed the entire year recovering from knee surgery.
  • Lance Ball - Ball rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries for Indianapolis in his only regular season NFL appearance on Dec. 28, 2008.
  • Toney Baker - The undrafted rookie received the ACC's Brian Piccolo Award as the conference's most courageous player for bouncing back from a knee injury that cost him nearly two full seasons.
  • Correll Buckhalter - The 10th-year veteran has 10 career postseason appearances, including three NFC Championship games.
  • Bruce Hall - Hall joined the Broncos in February after spending much of the last two seasons on Buffalo's practice squad.
  • Spencer Larsen - The fullback/linebacker is the only Bronco to start on both offense and defense in the same game.
  • Knowshon Moreno - Moreno led all rookies in 2009 by garnering Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week honors four times.
  • Kolby Smith - The former 5th round pick of Kansas City has amassed 540 rushing yards and three touchdowns in three NFL seasons.

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