|08-31-2005, 01:39 AM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Sherman Oaks, CA
Plenty in reserve - RMN
With Anderson No. 1, play of Bell, Griffin, Dayne will determine Broncos' backup plan
By Lee Rasizer, Rocky Mountain News
August 31, 2005
ENGLEWOOD - The starting tailback job finally is in Tatum Bell's grasp.
Only the one-game assignment for the preseason finale Friday hardly is what the Denver Broncos second-year running back had in mind when the summer began.
While Mike Anderson locked up the No. 1 assignment for the regular-season opener with a 159-yard rushing performance Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts, Bell largely was an observer and special-teams contributor. He had one carry for 2 yards and played only three offensive snaps.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan noted Tuesday that Denver ran only 21 offensive plays in the first half against Indianapolis compared with 47 in the Aug. 20 preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, limiting Bell's opportunities.
Given a similar offensive workload as the previous game, Shanahan said Bell would have gotten 12 to 15 carries.
Still, given the lack of action, Bell needs to find his rhythm and solidify his hold on the No. 2 job against the Arizona Cardinals (8 p.m., CBS 4).
Anderson and most of the starters will be observers as the Broncos attempt to finish their first undefeated preseason since 2000. So Bell, Ron Dayne and Quentin Griffin will bid to earn regular-season snaps with their performances behind reserve offensive linemen.
"I want to play and get out there and be with the 'twos,' " Bell said. "I love running behind the first line, but the second line's starting to gel better and I need the carries to just get my blood going."
Bell has 20 carries for 75 yards and one touchdown during Denver's 3-0 preseason but hasn't played behind the starters much in those games.
He would have been happy with his workload no matter how it came at this time last year, when injuries limited him to nine carries in the first four preseason games before he got 18 against the Cardinals.
But expectations were higher this August.
Anderson never let Bell into the race for the starter's job with a performance offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak described as one of the best he has seen at any position in training camp.
"That's not taking anything away from Tatum," Shanahan said. "Tatum played very well last year and he's had a good preseason. I think he deserves the opportunity to play as well."
Against the Cardinals, "He'll get a number of carries," Shanahan said. "And we'll see if he takes advantage of it."
Bell's expectations have changed to include impressing coaches to where he might be able to spell Anderson for two to three series a game.
It happened last season when he backed up Reuben Droughns in November and December, eventually turning the job into a rotation system.
"I'm still going to go out there and compete every day," Bell said. "We know Mike's the starter. I'm going to back him up and tell him what he do wrong and what he do right. I'm going to be his biggest critic. That's how you get better."
The criticism might figure to be harsher when Bell opens up his performances for scrutiny. Instead of positive reinforcement, he has chosen another tact to try to get better.
"I can't do nothing right," he said. "That's how I'm looking at it."
Bell's logic in being so harsh is there always is something he can improve upon, and as long as he keeps that mind-set, he'll continue making strides.
Yet in the same breath, Bell contradicted himself and seemed to let some of his disappointment during the past month seep out.
"I know I'm doing right," he said. "It's not in my eyes, it's some other people's eyes I'm not doing everything right or I've taken plays off or it might be anything. I don't know. I'm just not the guy who's going to be starting. That's how I see it."
The Broncos in the past have had a backup runner spell the starter for six to eight carries a game. Whether that plays out again will depend on game circumstances and if Anderson needs a break once Denver begins the season Sept. 11 against the Miami Dolphins.
"It could be," Shanahan said. "We just let it happen."
Dayne and Griffin's skills also must be weighed. Thy will be equally scrutinized Friday and have at least merited consideration for future work behind Anderson.
Griffin, coming off right knee surgery, made his preseason debut against the Colts and carried nine times for 33 yards. Dayne leads all Broncos rushers with 29 carries, gaining 143 yards.
"All the backs have played well and nobody will know the pecking order until after our first game when we actually play the Dolphins because we never finalize anything until after that game," Shanahan said. "But we've got some football players. When you look at our running back position, you're looking at four guys right now who look pretty good."
How the Broncos' three primary running backs compare after three preseason games
No. Yards TDs
Rushing 24 219 2
Receiving 5 44 1
No. Yards TDs
Rushing 20 75 1
Receiving 1 8 0
No. Yards TDs
Rushing 29 143 0
Receiving 4 27 0
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