The Denver Broncos don't have much of a running back controversy as the preseason winds down.
Mike Anderson is clearly ahead of Tatum Bell, and if there was any doubt, Denver's third preseason game was pretty telling. Anderson rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries against Indianapolis, including a 93-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Bell appeared in two plays in the first half and finished the game with one carry and 2 yards.
That's not much of a surprise to Bell. After two preseason games Bell was pretty sure a running back by committee was not in Denver's plans this year, because the Broncos never split carries.
"They don't really believe in that," Bell said. "Whoever the guy is, that's who it's going to be. Me and Ron (have) got to carry our weight backing up or on special teams."
Since 1995, Mike Shanahan's first year as head coach, only once have two Broncos running backs each had more than 100 carries in a season. That was 2001, and there wasn't a committee that year. Terrell Davis was the featured back in the eight games he played and Anderson got the carries when Davis didn't play. Anderson didn't get more than six carries in any of the eight games Davis started that year.
This preseason the Broncos haven't shown much inclination to use a second back regularly. In Denver's first preseason games the starters played 17 games counting penalties and Anderson was the tailback for all of them. In the second preseason game Bell got two plays with the starting offense, which was on the field for 18 plays counting penalties.
The Broncos will rest almost all of their starters in the final preseason game, and it would be a startling turn of events if Anderson isn't the starting tailback for the season opener against Miami.
The coaches have said they are happy with Bell, but he is definitely behind Anderson. Anderson worked ahead of Bell at tailback in every practice during training camp, aside from one practice that Anderson sat out because the coaches wanted to give him a rest. Bell was also inserted on all four special teams units. He is a protector on the punt team, a rusher on the punt return team, on the front line of the kickoff return unit and he has covered kickoffs.
Bell will probably have to wait for his chance to get significant carries at tailback once the regular season starts, although that did happen last year when Reuben Droughns wore down near the end of the season.
"I feel like I can handle the load, but Mike is doing good so that's what they're going with right now," Bell said. "When he steps down or something happens to him or if he slips one day in practice or has a bad week, I'm going to be right there."
Anderson will be 32 years old on Sept. 21, but he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down during an effective preseason. "Don't count out the old guy yet," Anderson said.
--S Marques Anderson was claimed off waivers by the Broncos last week. Anderson had a good game against Denver last season, which was one reason Denver was interested in him. The Broncos lost two safeties, Chris Young and Brandon Browner, to injuries in the preseason.
--RB Quentin Griffin made his preseason debut against Indianapolis. He had nine carries for 33 yards. It was Griffin's first game action since he tore an ACL against Cincinnati last October.
--RB Maurice Clarett will be released, according to his agent.
--DT Gerard Warren was used as a fullback in Denver's goal-line offense in its third preseason game against Indianapolis. He led the way on a 2-yard touchdown run by Mike Anderson. Warren said he was approached with the idea of playing offense a couple weeks ago and the team worked on it in practice before trying it out against the Colts.
--CB Champ Bailey likely won't play in the preseason. A hamstring injury won't go away, so Bailey was held out of Denver's third preseason game. Bailey said he's not worried about the injury forcing him to miss any time in the regular season.
--CB Darrent Williams has gotten a lot of time with the first-team defense in Champ Bailey's absence. Williams was matched up against Colts WR Marvin Harrison for a lot of Denver's third preseason game. The Broncos played zone most of the game but Williams did well when he covered Harrison man-to-man.
--RB Ron Dayne didn't get a carry against Indianapolis but his roster spot is probably safe. Dayne had two good games to start the preseason and he showed he fits the Broncos' zone-blocking scheme well.
--S John Lynch has had some problems with back spasms. They flared up during Denver's game against Indianapolis and he was pulled early. Lynch said the injury isn't serious and he was pulled from the preseason game as a precaution.
--DE John Engelberger had three sacks against the Colts. The Broncos acquired him in a trade right before training camp and he has been impressive as a pass rusher.
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