Denver Broncos Hot Topics - Monday, July 31

Denver Broncos running back Tatum Bell (#26) wants to finish camp as the starter. So far, Bell's attitude and sense of urgency have impressed the coaching staff.

Ron Dayne started training camp as the Broncos' starting tailback, but Tatum Bell wants to finish camp as the starter.

Dayne and Bell have split carries with the first-team offense, but Dayne always goes in first. Dayne has a slight edge because of his style. He is a big runner who can make one cut and get downfield.

Bell, who is entering his third season, hasn't yet shown he can move the chains with tough inside running. He has fantastic speed and is one of the best big-play threats in the NFL, but Bell said the message he gets every day from Broncos coach Mike Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner is he needs to run stronger.

"I think we've reached a point now in his career when we expect the 60-(yard run) out of you, but we expect a 3 and a cloud of dust too," Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist said.

The Broncos have been happy with Bell's attitude this camp. They detect urgency to take the starting spot, which he has been unable to do so far.

"It's my third year, no more excuses," Bell said. "Do or die, basically."

Last year, Bell couldn't beat out Mike Anderson. Most people expected at some point Bell would be elevated ahead of the then 32-year-old Anderson in camp, but Anderson never gave up the job. Anderson rushed for more than 1,000 yards and Bell had 921 yards off the bench. That wasn't a bad season for Bell, but he wants more.

Bell thinks this year's camp competition will be different. He said he understood that last year he didn't make enough plays or run strong enough to unseat Anderson. This year, he thinks he is close to getting the No. 1 job.

"I'm trying to take this thing over," Bell said. "It's open. I'm running with the ones, so it's open. It ain't mine yet, but I feel like it's around the corner. I just have to keep my head and come to practice every day."

Because the Broncos don't do much live hitting in training camp, Shanahan usually waits until preseason games to really evaluate his tailbacks. Bell will have to add to his repertoire to unseat Dayne. Bell hasn't been a great blocker on blitz pickup or a reliable receiver -- although Dayne isn't a great pass catcher either.

Bell also hasn't been a workhorse back. Last season, from his first carry to his 10th carry in each game, Bell averaged 6.2 yards. From his 11th carry on, his average dropped to 2.9 yards. Bell, who was second in the AFC with 10 runs of 20-yards for more, didn't have one 20-yard run after his 10th carry.

"Everybody knows he's a big play threat, and I think power running sometimes is more want than it is ability," Sundquist said. "The guy is built. It's not like we have a 5-foot-6, 170-pound running back who just runs in there and because of physics can't move the pile. Tatum has that ability."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Broncos signed veteran offensive tackle Adam Meadows to a three-year contract, and if healthy Meadows will give right tackle George Foster some instant competition for his starting job. Meadows was a starter for the Indianapolis Colts, but then abruptly retired from football after signing a big contract with Carolina because of chronic shoulder pain.

Meadows wanted to make a comeback and became a free agent when Carolina cut him. The Broncos doctors said he was healthy enough to play and Meadows chose the Broncos over several other interested teams.

--P Micah Knorr was signed to a one-year contract. With Todd Sauerbrun suspended for the first four games, the Broncos will need a punter who can also kick off. Knorr did both during his first stint with Denver. Knorr and second-year punter Paul Ernster will compete for the job.

--CB Karl Paymah, a third-round pick last year, had a strong offseason. He is still behind Champ Bailey and fellow second-year players Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth, but Paymah will have a chance to contribute on defense this year.

--WR David Kircus has a good shot at making the roster. He has caught plenty of passes in the first few days of camp. He can also return kickoffs, a position the Broncos need help at.

--QB Bradlee Van Pelt started camp as Denver's second quarterback ahead of first-round pick Jay Cutler. Van Pelt looks comfortable running the second team and his experience in the system could give him the edge in the battle to be Jake Plummer's backup.

--TE Nate Jackson could end up being used in passing situations this year. Jackson is a former receiver with good size and speed. He can help replace Jeb Putzier, who was released this offseason.

INJURY REPORT: WR Domenik Hixon is out indefinitely with a foot injury he suffered in a workout before the draft. He was expected to compete for Denver's kickoff return job.

--S Sam Brandon has a strained hamstring but should be back in less than a week.



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