John Fox Names Running Back the Broncos’ “Number One Priority” in Free Agency


Denver Broncos head coach John Fox made some interesting remarks last week in his discussion with Woody Paige, summarized here on the Denver Post website. Fox garnered attention amidst the news-starved world of the NFL lockout with his comment that he already has an idea who will win the starting quarterback job in 2011. Broncos fans will agree that the downtrodden franchise needs a quarterback who thrives in the clutch. Not all fans will agree, however, with another statement Fox confided: that the Broncos’ top priority in free agency will be at the running back position.

Passing on defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with the #2 overall pick in the 2010 draft surprised many fans and analysts alike. Arguably, the recent firings of former offensive-minded coaches Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels were indirectly caused by their refusal to invest high draft picks on the defensive line. John Elway and co. passed on picking young defensive tackle help for the remainder of this past April’s draft.

As if this wasn’t troubling enough, Fox’s recent comment begs the question, “What will it take for defensive tackle to finally become the Broncos’ #1 priority?” The Broncos were statistically the worst defense in the league last year. Much of that had to do with the defensive line getting consistently pushed back off the ball.

Then again, those soft defensive fronts of years past have all been comprised mostly of other teams’ free agency castoffs. Maybe Fox, Elway, and Xanders have learned from past mistakes. After all, defensive tackle was the Broncos’ “number one priority” last offseason, bringing us the trio of Justin Bannan (aging and formerly let go by the Ravens), Jamal Williams (injured, aging, and formerly let go by the Chargers), and Jarvis Green (cut during training camp after signing a deal for guaranteed money). Next offseason, I fully expect defensive tackle to be the Broncos’ number one priority in the draft, not free agency, for a change.

As far as running back help, Fox has clearly sent a message to third-year pro and former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno. When healthy, Moreno has been serviceable. Still, he has yet to display the durability or the athleticism that made him the #12 overall pick in 2009. With DeAngelo Williams, Tim Hightower, or another free agent back taking carries on first and second down this fall, Moreno may be sparked by the vivid possibility of falling down the depth chart and wearing the banner of a first-round bust…That is, if sharing a locker room with Brady Quinn wasn’t enough.