|09-13-2007, 08:27 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Broncos' Henry good to fly solo
By Mike Klis
Denver Post Staff Writer
Good ideas are easily pilfered in the NFL.
Bill Walsh perfects the West Coast offense and suddenly every team is running a version of the West Coast offense. Pittsburgh's Dick LeBeau devises the finishing touches on a 3-4 zone blitz and several teams switch to the 3-4.
Somebody once called the NFL a copycat league, and sure enough, the NFL now is frequently referred to as a copycat league.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan is one cat who's copied.
Two years ago, Shanahan became the first to employ a full-time two-tailback system. Mike Anderson ran inside and Tatum Bell ran outside for a combined 1,935 rushing yards.
Suddenly the next year, several teams were rotating tailbacks, including all four participants in the NFL's 2006 conference championship games - New Orleans' Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush; Chicago's Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson; New England's Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney; Indianapolis' Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai.
For 2007, Shanahan is once again moving one step away from the followers. The Bell has tolled on the Broncos' rotating tailback system. Travis Henry is the one and only.
"I think the reason why you have two backs is you don't have one great back," Shanahan said. "You can have a great back and a very good back behind him. But that doesn't happen very often."
In the Broncos' season-opening, 15-14 victory Sunday at Buffalo, Henry was, as teammate Javon Walker said, "a beast of a running back."
It wasn't just that Henry had the best combined rushing-receiving totals among NFL running backs in Week 1 with 183 yards. It was that he had more carries (13) and more receptions (two) in the second half than he did in the first (10 and one). It was that he had 110 yards in total offense in the second half compared with 73 in the first.
Henry isn't just the Broncos' first premier tailback since Clinton Portis was traded for a Champ named Bailey after the 2003 season. It's that Henry gets stronger at a time when most backs are wearing down.
"I did all right," Henry said. "It was nice winning a game like that. We still feel like we can be better. That's the good thing. We've got to convert when we're down there."
The touchdowns have yet to come, but if they do, Henry may well be viewed as the Broncos' equivalent to LaDainian Tomlinson, the NFL's most versatile back.
Here is the breakdown of the Broncos' tailback rotation circa 2007: Henry, 23 carries. Selvin Young, two carries.
There were three consecutive games in 2006, against New England, Baltimore and Oakland, when Tatum Bell had a combined 69 carries and second-string tailback Mike Bell had five.
Tatum Bell was unable to sustain the heavy workload, however. He broke down with a turf toe injury that hampered him the rest of the season. Henry's stout frame appears better equipped to consistently take on the physical punishment. He also has proof in three separate rushing seasons of better than 1,400 yards, 1,300 yards and 1,200 yards.
"One back, two backs, three backs, it doesn't matter," Shanahan said. "What matters is having a great back. If Travis gets tired, I think Selvin Young is a natural running back. He brings a lot. ... We have two other fullbacks who are good tailbacks in Mike Bell and Cecil Sapp. We like Andre Hall. We feel like our depth at tailback is as good as we've had."
"I just wanted to go in and do my thing and do whatever I can to help this team win," Henry said.
Once again, the Broncos are pretty much a one-back team. It seems plenty.