In 1995, the decision to feature just one running back the entire season was pretty much made up for then-Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.
That’s because a 23-year-old sixth-round draft pick named Terrell Davis quickly showed the Broncos — and the rest of the National Football League — that he had the skills to be the best rusher in the NFL.
That season, Davis — who wasn’t the Broncos’ original choice at running back heading into the season — played in and started 14 games and rushed for 1,117 yards and seven touchdowns, while adding 367 yards receiving to his stat line.
Shanahan on Friday compared the stipulations of Davis’s rookie year to that of the three Washington Redskins running backs looking to carry the load in 2012.
Asked when he would decide to rely on one running back for the rest of the season, Shanahan said, “I really don’t know.”
“People asked me about Terrell Davis. They didn’t think he was going to make the football team going into the last preseason game, but he had a heck of a game,” Shanahan said in his post-practice press conference. “So we really don’t know who’s going to play.”
Veteran Tim Hightower was the Redskins’ starting running back last season before his season ended in Week 7 when he tore his ACL against the Carolina Panthers. In his place, then-rookies Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster turned in solid relief appearances, averaging 4.2 and 5.9 yards per carry, respectively.
Hightower probably still has the “whole-package” advantage over Helu Jr. and Royster — the ability to run, catch passes and pass block — but Shanahan said not to rule out another running back on the roster whose background is very similar to Davis’s in Denver.
Rookie Alfred Morris — like Davis — was a sixth-round pick by the Redskins in April’s NFL Draft, and saw lots of reps in the team’s organized team activities and mini-camp as other backs nursed injuries.
“Maybe Alfred Morris is the guy who steps up, just as Davis did,” Shanahan said. “That’s why you have to have competition.”
Shanahan said he knew he had something special in Davis when the Broncos decided to draft him with a late-round pick out of Georgia.
“Oh I knew he was going to make the team,” Shanahan said confidently. “I wasn’t sure he was going to be our starting running back but he was like the MVP two games on special teams. And anytime a guy that’s a running back that hasn’t played special teams, plays at that level, you know he’s going to be on your team you just don’t know if he’s going to be dressed or be a part of your 46 or 53 or 61 (-man roster).”
Tags: Alfred Morris, evan royster, mike shanahan, Roy Helu Jr., tim hightower, washington redskins
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