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Daily Mail - Denver's unsettled backfield

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  • Daily Mail - Denver's unsettled backfield

    Q: Which Denver running back will most likely take over the starting role vacated by Clinton Portis?

    Bryan N.

    A: It's tough to say right now because the Broncos have about 43 players who could fill that hole. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but there are way too many people competing for that role for owners to feel safe with one as a fantasy starter.

    Quentin Griffin and Mike Anderson are the frontrunners entering camp. I would give Griffin the edge because the team can always use Anderson at fullback. Besides, Griffin ran well during his replacement stints for Portis last season. Rookie Tatum Bell or newcomer Garrison Hearst also could start. Bell seemed to be the early favorite, but his performance at the team's minicamps was disappointing. Hearst probably can't carry a full load at his age. Remember, he was splitting time with Kevan Barlow the past few seasons.

    The team would prefer to avoid a committee, but that approach could be inevitable. Even if the team settles on one guy heading into the season, don't expect the situation to be settled for good. One poor performance and the job will be up for grabs again.

    Rob Hurtt -

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  • RamWraith
    Rams Run Defense Ready for Tough Test
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, September 7, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    After finishing 30th of 32 NFL teams in 2005, the Rams went into the free agent market and spent freely in hopes of boosting their anemic run defense.

    Just how much the addition of the likes of La’Roi Glover, Will Witherspoon and Corey Chavous will improve the team’s ability to stop the run will be tested right away. In fact, there might not be a better early test for the Rams’ revamped run defense than the one coming to town Sunday.

    The Denver Broncos will bring their vaunted running game to St. Louis on Sunday for the regular season opener at the Edward Jones Dome. Although it won’t determine how the team will stop the run all season, it should give the Rams an indication of where they are in their quest to improve.

    “This could really set us up for our big picture,” Glover said. “We can have some success against these guys, get back into the confidence that we’ve got after that, and try and put some wins together.”

    For now, the small picture is focused on Denver’s zone-blocking running game, a running game that has perennially been among the league’s best for the past 11 years. Under head coach Mike Shanahan, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, the Broncos have developed a scheme that seems to work regardless of the running back.

    In that timeframe, Denver has seen unknowns such as Olandis Gary, Terrell Davis, Reuben Droughns and Mike Anderson become 1,000-yard rushers. Players such as Davis and Clinton Portis became superstars, but it really hasn’t made much difference whether the player was an undrafted free agent like Anderson or a second-round choice such as Portis. The results are always the same.

    “It doesn’t matter,” defensive end Anthony Hargrove said. “Somebody is going to be taking handoffs. We could be looking for Gale Sayers back there and he could be headed toward a thousand yards, but we would still have to stop him.”

    Since 1995, the Broncos have had ten 1,000-yard rushers and are first in the league in rushing yards with 25,022, more than one-thousand yards ahead of the next best team. In that same timeframe, Denver has eighty-two 100-yard rushers in a game, 11 more than second-place Pittsburgh.

    Last season, the Broncos finished second in the league in rushing at 158.7 yards a game. That group was led by Anderson, who finished with 1,014 yards. Tatum Bell chipped in with 921 yards. Of course, the Broncos thought so much of Anderson’s performance that they released Anderson in the offseason.

    This year’s version looks to a pair of Bells and Cedric Cobbs to emerge as the next in the line of rushers to hit the 1K mark. Rookie Mike Bell apparently led the competition for the starting job during camp, but Tatum Bell and Cobbs are both in the mix. Tatum Bell is the only experienced...
    -09-08-2006, 10:17 AM
  • evil disco man
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    By Jim Thomas

    If it doesn't work out for the Rams' defense this season, it won't be for lack of trying. In the offseason, the Rams invested a potential $73.5 million in free agents Fakhir Brown, Corey Chavous, La'Roi Glover, and Will Witherspoon. They added budget free agents such as linebacker Raonall Smith and tackle Jason Fisk to improve depth.

    Three of the Rams' top four draft picks were defensive players, headed by first-rounder Tye Hill at cornerback. As a topper, former New Orleans head coach Jim Haslett was hired for $1 million a year to coordinate the defense.

    In short, it has been the most extensive -- and most expensive -- makeover for a Rams defense since the move to St. Louis in 1995. Only the 2001 makeover, which included free agents

    Aeneas Williams and Kim Herring; draft picks Adam Archuleta, Ryan Pickett and Tommy Polley; and defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, comes close.

    Haslett quickly has earned the respect of the players. This will be a faster, more aggressive, better tackling defense than the 2004 or 2005 units.

    "We became better with our acquisitions in the offseason," defensive end Leonard Little said. "We're automatically better. But we've got to go out there and play like we're better."

    Particularly when it comes to stopping the run. A year ago, the Rams finished 28th in the NFL in run defense. They allowed a whopping 4.7 yards a carry, which tied for last in the league. On seven occasions, opposing running backs topped 100 yards.

    "We can't help but go up," Little said. "We emphasized that during training camp -- stopping the run. This will be a good test for us this week."

    On a schedule littered with the likes of Edgerrin James, Shaun Alexander, Larry Johnson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Clinton Portis, the best rushing team the Rams face just might be the Denver Broncos, Sunday's season-opening foe in the Edward Jones Dome.

    That's right, the Broncos of Mike Bell, Tatum Bell and Cedric Cobbs in the backfield.


    Well, Mike Bell is an undrafted rookie from Arizona. At 6-0, 220 pounds, he isn't a burner, but he's quick to the hole with enough wiggle to make you miss. He's expected to start Sunday.

    Tatum Bell is a third-year player from Oklahoma State with 1,317 career rushing yards. With 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash, he's a home-run threat but doesn't break many tackles. He'll probably be the Broncos' change-of-pace back Sunday.

    As for Cobbs, he has 50 career rushing yards in the NFL, gained in 2004 for New England before leg injuries slowed his career. He spent the 2005 season on Denver's practice squad.

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  • evil disco man
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    By Nick Wagoner
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    1. For Whom the Bells Toll
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    Of that trio, Tatum Bell is the fastest of the group, but more of a straight line runner who has had fumbling issues in the past. Cobbs and Mike Bell are the unproven commodities. Mike Bell has speed and power, but is an undrafted free agent with no NFL experience. Cobbs spent last year in New England and has speed, but also has little to no experience.

    The Rams, meanwhile, are looking for resurgence against the run after finishing among the league’s dregs in that category last year. The additions of Will Witherspoon, Corey Chavous and La’Roi Glover are expected to help, but it remains to be seen whether it will.

    Denver’s system has been extremely successful mainly because of that zone blocking system. Watch for the Broncos to turn their offensive line in one direction with the running back making a single cutback and turning up field. That offensive line also isn’t afraid to use the cut block to its advantage.

    “I think they execute and they just believe in it,” Linehan said. “It’s a little bit different, a little bit unconventional. I noticed another team complaining about that style of running recently. It’s a little intimidating to play because of the style. They get up in their legs and I don’t think people like that. I know you’ve got an advantage if that becomes the issue of how they’re blocking you and all that, then I think they’ve probably won before the game even starts. I think that has a lot to do with it. They just do it with how they play and how they finish.”

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  • r8rh8rmike
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    "One of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health. One thing that's obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that's going on with that. One of the big things that I thought about when I was considering this is how much do I love the game? How much can they pay me to take away my health and my future and being able to be with my family and just have a healthy lifestyle?"

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    Would Bell, who signed a one-year free-agent deal with Cincinnati less than five weeks ago, still be playing if Seau hadn't taken his own life?

    "That's a good question," he said. "I've been thinking about some different things, thinking about health, thinking about the future of my family having to deal with some kind of crazy disease that nobody even knows about, where people want their brains studied after they're dead. Donating their brains to research.

    "It's just crazy to see how someone like Junior Seau took his own life over — God knows what he was really struggling and dealing with. But you have to believe it came from the game of football. I want to get out before the game makes me get out, where I can get out on my own terms, and I can limit the amount of stress and negative impact that the game would leave on me."

    The health concerns for NFL players obviously go beyond concussions....
    -05-09-2012, 09:42 AM