Last Saturday the Broncos played their second preseason game of 2010, their INVESCO Field @ Mile High home opener, against the Detroit Lions. Denver fell behind by 13 points early, but Kyle Orton rallied the offense to take the lead back. In the fourth quarterback however, Brady Quinn was sacked and fumbled, Detroit recovered and won 25-20. The two main areas the Broncos struggled with in the loss were stopping the run, and creating a good rushing game on offense.
The absence of starting left tackle Ryan Clady and running backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter has been dubbed the sole reason for the lack of rushing production. "Obviously, those guys are great players and we'd love to have them back," Said offensive lineman Russ Hochstein. "When they do get back, things will be great. But in the meantime, we still need to make it go, and we're not doing that yet."
The starters on Saturday rushed for a mere 20 yards on 8 carries, and if not for a 23-yard scamper by Bruce Hall in the forth quarter, the Broncos would have rushed for just 32 yards in the game. Through two pre-season games, the Broncos have an average of 55.5 yards rushing, ranking 2nd to last in that category. This week the Broncos will face the Steelers, whose run-stopping defense only allowed 129 rushing yards from the run-happy Giants last weekend. Clearly, Denver will have to improve in the running game.
Thankfully, there hasn't been much of a need for a rushing attack from the first string offense, as Kyle Orton has been next to flawless. Orton, the only quarterback in the NFL to throw multiple touchdown passes in each of his preseason appearances, has gone 24-of-35 for 261 yards, 4 scores and one interception (that the receiver tipped into the air). With a pass-happy offensive attack, and a slew of injuries, the running game being placed on the back burner is understandable, but soon won't be acceptable. "We've still got a long ways to go, but we're working on it," wide receiver Jabar Gaffney said of the rushing game. "We'll have it all together, hopefully, by the time we go to Jacksonville."
The Broncos were out rushed by the Lions 151 yards to 75 yards, drawing concern not only about the offense, but the run defense as well. The Broncos are ranked at the bottom-of-the-barrel in rush yards allowed this preseason, allowing 171.0 per game. Notably, D.J. Williams, Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey, and Elvis Dumervil have all missed one or more games already. The Broncos linebackers will have to step up without Dumervil and Williams against the Steelers, or the game could get ugly. Similarly to the offense, the defense's aiming point for correcting the run defense is the season opener. "You're always going to think you can do better," defensive end Justin Bannan said. "But it's all about being ready for that opener, and we're working toward that."