Don’t reach for the life jackets yet, Broncos fans. The ground game may be virtually non-existent two weeks into preseason play, but that doesn’t mean the regular season rushing attack is sinking.
The Broncos running backs have been hit with Brian Dawkins-like force on the injury front. The last time we saw Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter carrying the ball, it was August 1st. Moreno has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, and Buckhalter with a head and neck injury. When last year’s leading rushers went down, the Broncos brought in LenDale White. He inadvertently jumped on the backfield injury bandwagon when he sprained his ankle during his first practice with the team. Compounding issues surrounding the Broncos running game has been Ryan Clady’s complete absence on the offensive line.
With the slew of injuries, the Broncos have put the ball primarily in the arms of Bruce Hall, Justin Fargas, and Lance Ball. Going into the season, no one thought that these three players would be getting the majority of the carries with Moreno and Buckhalter spending their days in the training room.
In week 1 against the Bengals, the Broncos struggled on the ground with just 36 yards on 15 carries. Week 2 saw 75 yards on 20 carries against the Lions. Bruce Hall stood out this past week with 5 carries for 43 yards (8.6 avg.) with a long run of 23 yards.
With Moreno’s and Buckhalter’s return date unknown at this point, much attention has been placed on the importance of the offensive line. Not only do they have to create gaps for the backfield, but they’ve got the additional responsibility of protecting a quarterback whose team has to rely on that much more with the rushing attack on the mend.
“All the guys that have been playing for the O-line have stepped up. We’ve had some injuries and a lot of people have stepped up and have made a great contribution. We’re excited about the depth that that adds for us,” Harris said.
The Broncos have two rookies staring on the O-line in J.D. Walton at center and Zane Beadles at left guard.
The starting offensive line did a fairly good job of protecting Kyle Orton who was sacked once in 22 attempted passes. However, Brady Quinn was sacked three times when he replaced Orton and the offensive line was switched up a bit.
The all-around onslaught of injuries and battered bodies had 16 players sitting out of Saturday’s game. Included in that list were D.J. Williams, Champ Bailey, Chris Kuper, Brandon Stokley, Tim Tebow, and Demaryius Thomas.
Despite the lack of star-power, Kyle Orton had another solid preseason game going 16-22 for 177 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. Once again, Orton is clearly in front of the predominantly orange QB pack.
As soon as the Broncos infirmary doors open and release some backfield help, Orton is going to improve that much more as is the rest of the Broncos offense. Until then, run protection wishes and ground yard dreams loom two weeks before Jacksonville – still plenty of time to get things right.
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