Broncos Update Insider - Sunday, July 2

One of the biggest, and least talked about, changes on the Denver Broncos' offense is they will have a new starting tailback. Mike Shanahan's belief in his system will be tested again, but there's little reason to believe either Ron Dayne or Tatum Bell won't be successful.

The Broncos' offensive outlook entering training camp: One of the biggest, and least talked about, changes on the Denver Broncos' offense is they will have a new starting tailback.

That usually isn't a big deal in Denver. The team has traded or released a 1,000-yard back three straight seasons. Clinton Portis was shipped to Washington, Reuben Droughns was traded to Cleveland, and last March the Broncos cut Mike Anderson.

Mike Shanahan's belief in his system will be tested again, but there's little reason to believe either Ron Dayne or Tatum Bell won't be successful. Only once since 1995, Shanahan's first year as Denver's coach, has he not produced a 1,000-yard running back.

Dayne is more like Anderson, a tough, downhill runner who can consistently pick up yards with the ability to hit a long run once in a while. Dayne played well in the limited duty he saw last year, including a big game on Thanksgiving against Dallas. Bell hasn't been able to take hold of the starting role. He almost had 1,000 yards last season as a backup, but he has to show the coaching staff in training camp that he is more than just a big-play threat.

The Broncos' biggest offseason acquisition was on offense, when they traded for receiver Javon Walker. Walker is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the season opener with Green Bay last year. The team is happy with how he is progressing this offseason and all indications are that Walker will be ready for training camp.

Walker is one of the top receivers in the NFL when healthy, and he could be part of an outstanding combination with Rod Smith, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season. Walker will replace Ashley Lelie, who has threatened to hold out of training camp and wants to be traded.

The Broncos focused on their offense in the draft. Quarterback Jay Cutler was the team's first-round pick. He's not expected to play this year as he sits and learns behind Jake Plummer, but he could take over as soon as 2007.

The rookie who will be asked to contribute right away is tight end Tony Scheffler, a second-round pick. Denver released tight end Jeb Putzier, the team's third leading receiver last year, and then lost tight ends Wesley Duke and Landon Trusty to knee injuries in the offseason. There's not much depth behind starter Stephen Alexander, and the Broncos hope Scheffler can play a huge role right away.


--The Broncos returned to their offseason conditioning program on June 19, after a week off. The coaching staff gave them a week off after three straight weeks of organized team activity camps.

"I think it is a good break for the players," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Denver will have its mandatory minicamp from July 6-8, the only NFL team that holds its minicamp in July.

--Despite plenty of rumors, the Broncos haven't yet traded receiver Ashley Lelie. They could wait until training camp to get better value for him from a team that has some injuries at receiver. Lelie, who wants to be a No. 1 receiver, could hold out deep into training camp and maybe into the regular season if he is not traded.

The Broncos are deep at receiver and thin at tight end and running back, so using Lelie in a trade to bolster those positions could be a possibility.

--Broncos coach Mike Shanahan recently spoke at a motivational seminar at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Gen. Colin Powell were among the other speakers there. Shanahan is a good public speaker who does less than 10 speaking engagements per year because of his schedule.

Shanahan said he enjoys public speaking but wouldn't consider doing it regularly once his coaching career is done.

"That's not me," Shanahan said. "I would do it in certain situations, but that's not my personality to do a bunch of them. I do a few and try to do a real good job."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They know it's a process. You've got to get better day-by-day. If you, you have a chance to make something happen." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.


The two major issues the Broncos still need to attend to are signing their rookie class and figuring out what to do with disgruntled receiver Ashley Lelie.

Although none of the rookies are signed, it shouldn't be a major problem to get them all in by the time camp starts. The Broncos have an excellent track record of getting rookies into training camp on time.

Lelie is a tougher dilemma. Lelie is upset because he wants the chance to be a No. 1 receiver and has shown no indication he will be at Denver's mandatory minicamp on July 6-8 or show up to training camp on time. Lelie could be traded to add depth at another position of need.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): S Chris Young.
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: S Sam Brandon; LB Keith Burns; LB Patrick Chukwurah; RB Ron Dayne; DE John Engelberger; LS/TE Mike Leach; OT Matt Lepsis; DT Demetrin Veal; DT Gerard Warren.
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: DE Kenard Lang; CB Willie Middlebrooks; WR Javon Walker; LB Nate Webster.
PLAYERS LOST: RB Mike Anderson; DE Marco Coleman; TE Wesley Duke; DT Monsanto Pope; DE Trevor Pryce; TE Jeb Putzier.

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