The top two spots of the depth chart remained the same the entire preseason. Undrafted rookie Mike Bell was the starter and Tatum Bell was the backup. Shanahan said the Bells and third-stringer Cedric Cobbs would battle for the starting spot in Denver's preseason finale, and Mike Bell led the team in rushing that game.
So it would be a surprise if Shanahan didn't start Mike Bell. No matter who the starter is, the Broncos are probably looking at another year of a tailback committee.
"Hopefully we can stay healthy, and if we stay healthy all three guys will play," Shanahan said.
Last year Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson rotated. Anderson started the game and pounded away on opposing defenses. Tatum Bell was the change-of-pace back, and his 10 runs of 20 yards or more was second in the AFC. Anderson gained more than 1,000 yards and Tatum Bell was just behind at 921.
Tatum Bell wanted to win the starting job and said he felt he had a good training camp. In Denver's preseason finale Tatum Bell finished strong in the fourth quarter to give the coaches something more to think about. He had 48 yards on nine carries, and Mike Bell had 74 yards on nine carries. Mike Bell had a 38-yard run in the fourth quarter, which helped his stats.
"I just did my best to make it a hard decision for Mike Shanahan to play the best man," Tatum Bell said.
The Broncos will probably use a committee because each back has different skills. Mike Bell runs hard and has shown the ability to convert in short-yardage situations, but he has never played in a game.
Tatum Bell has some experience and great big-play potential, but he hasn't proven he can grind out the tough yards. Cedric Cobbs is a big back who is tough to bring down, and he played very well in the preseason.
The backs themselves are prepared for anything, including being a part of a committee.
"That's the way the NFL goes," Cobbs said. "There's going to be opportunities for someone to step up. I think everyone has to be prepared."
Even though all three backs are relatively unproven, the Broncos are confident they'll be able to run the ball. Shanahan has always produced 1,000-yard backs and Denver ran the ball well in the preseason. The Broncos ranked second in the NFL in rushing yardage and tied for second in yards per carry in the preseason. In the final preseason game all three backs showed they could be effective.
"All three guys played pretty good," Shanahan said. "That's what you want."
SERIES HISTORY: The Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams have split their 10 meetings. Denver is 2-1 since the Rams moved to St. Louis after the 1994 season. The last meeting was at Denver in 2002 and the Broncos won 23-16. The home team has won the last six contests.
NOTES, QUOTES --Defensive tackle Gerard Warren feels well enough that he can play, but he admitted he isn't 100 percent. Warren dislocated his left big toe in practice Aug. 5. He is the focal point of the Broncos defensive line, so his effectiveness is important.
"You got to keep staying on top of it and rehabbing it, and try to get it as close to 100 as you can," Warren said.
--One of the most surprising members of the 53-man roster was tight end Chad Mustard. Mustard was out of football all last season but moved up Denver's depth chart because of injuries. He had a job lined up teaching math in an Omaha suburb -- he was a substitute teacher last year when he wasn't playing -- but he had to turn it down when he made the Broncos.
Mustard said if he didn't make the Broncos he probably wouldn't have tried out for the NFL next year.
"I'm at the point where I can't put my family and my whole life on hold for football," Mustard said. "But now that I've got this opportunity, hopefully I'll keep it going for a while."
--One of the Broncos' toughest cuts was offensive lineman Dwayne Carswell. Carswell had been with the team since 1994, one season before Mike Shanahan arrived. Carswell had a serious car accident last October and made an impressive return to the field. He fell just short in his roster bid.
"It was very tough," Carswell said. "This is all I know, as far as professional football -- I got a lot of memories and a lot of good friends and good coaches. I pretty much grew up here."
Shanahan said the team would want to bring back Carswell if there were injuries.
--Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer won't have a jury trial on his alleged road-rage incident. He will have a disposition hearing on Sept. 29 where he's expected to accept a plea agreement. Plummer was accused of cutting off a driver, then kicking and backing into the victim's car at a stoplight. Plummer said he was rear-ended.
Plummer said he hasn't been bothered by the case lingering on.
"It never was weighing on me," Plummer said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 8-3 -- Mike Shanahan's record in season openers. Shanahan dropped the first game of the season last year at Miami.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We went down there and they took it to us, but it was sort of a wake-up call. It actually ended up being what we needed at the time as a team." -- Broncos coach Mike Shanahan on Denver's 34-10 loss at Miami in last year's season opener.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Denver made some interesting decisions with its final roster. The Broncos once again kept only two quarterbacks, letting Bradlee Van Pelt go. They kept five tight ends, including long-snapper Mike Leach, and six receivers. The six that were kept didn't include 2004 second-round pick Darius Watts, who was cut.
The Broncos didn't keep as much depth at defensive tackle and cornerback. Demetrin Veal is the only natural backup tackle, although rookie Elvis Dumervil can play tackle as well. Dumervil played end in college. The Broncos also have only two backup cornerbacks, Domonique Foxworth and Karl Paymah, and three backup safeties.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--WR David Kircus is listed as Denver's primary kickoff and punt returner. But the Broncos have plenty of options at each position and a long history of not divulging lineup information, so someone else could end up handling those duties.
--TE Chad Mustard made the team in part because of his blocking ability. Tony Scheffler and Nate Jackson are good receiving options at backup tight end, and Mustard could see action as a second tight end on running plays.
--OT Adam Meadows made the Broncos roster despite dealing with injury problems in training camp. Meadows could compete for a starting job at right tackle at some point if he stays healthy.
--WR Javon Walker said he is 100 percent healthy. Walker is coming off a major knee injury and the Broncos need him to be a playmaker on offense.
--WR Charlie Adams survived the final cut. Adams is valuable because
he is a reliable receiver, and he also has experience returning punts
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