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Mason's Mailbag: Making the ground game work over the long term

Posted Dec 30, 2017

Since 2000, only one team has run the ball better than Denver, even though the Broncos have been through plenty of different running backs.

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.

Since Terrell Davis, it seems as though Denver never puts a premium on top draft running backs, although many have fallen into their lap over the years in the draft. I call it the Davis curse. Yet you see teams that draft top running backs actually do make a difference, i.e. Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, Marshawn Lynch who actually fell in Denver's lap, among many others. It seems Denver hasn’t had a true star workhorse, game-breaking running back since the days of Terrell Davis and maybe Clinton Portis. What gives?

-- Mark Espinoza

And yet, in spite of that, since 2000 -- one year after Terrell Davis suffered the knee injury that eventually led to the premature end of his career -- the Broncos have averaged 126.7 rushing yards per game, more than all but one team (Minnesota). They've had eight 1,000-yard running backs in that span; if C.J. Anderson rushes for 54 yards Sunday, that will be nine, which would put them just above the league average of 8.63.

It's not necessarily about having the workhorse; it's about getting the production regardless. If you find that, what does it matter whether you pick a running back in the first round or the seventh -- or in the case of Anderson, outside of the draft entirely?

And of those running backs you named ... Gurley and Elliott haven't been a part of a team that has won a playoff game. Lynch wasn't a part of a playoff game for the team that drafted him (Buffalo). Drafting one of those types of running backs assures you of precisely bupkis. Meanwhile, the Patriots change running backs like I change socks, and they go right on winning division titles and playoff games.

Why are the Broncos playing Von Miller? He’s too valuable to lose. If he hurts his ACL, he won’t play next year. Put him on injured reserve.

-- Steven Perrigo

You need to have an injury to be placed on injured reserve, and Miller doesn't have one. The league will check for this sort of thing, to ensure that there is no abuse of its injured-reserve rules. Furthermore, not playing Miller for non-injury reasons would be a mockery, quite frankly.

Your suggestion is one of those ideas that might make sense in theory, but in terms of competitiveness, the reality of the rules and the constraints of a roster, it cannot be put into practice.

The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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