Head Coach Mike Shanahan doesn’t see the Broncos’ 63-yard rushing performance Sunday at Oakland as cause for panic. Certainly not when his running game — which has included carries for four different tailbacks in the last two games — still ranks fourth in the league through nine games.
“We’ve got some competition there,” Shanahan said. “Maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re in the top five (in rushing).”
It’s a competition that has seen its share of injuries. Tatum Bell has been hindered by turf-toe problems; Cedric Cobbs missed a month with an ankle sprain that had him on crutches for a few days after he incurred the injury against Kansas City in Week 2.
Bell’s injury issues — and the Sunday deactivation of Mike Bell (who is “going to play a lot for us before the season is over with,” Shanahan said) — left some playing time for Nash in his Broncos debut and his first game-time action since an impressive performance late in a preseason win over the Tennessee Titans.
“I wanted to see what Damien could do, because he’s looked good in practice from when he did play in the preseason game,” Shanahan said. “I thought we needed a guy that was healthy, a guy that was biting at the bit a little bit to get his opportunity, to kind of see what he could do in the second half of the season.
“So we’ll do things like that throughout the season, and sometimes when you have competition at certain positions, you don’t know when it’s going to occur, but chances are it will occur.”
Which is what Shanahan wants, anyhow.
“We think competition is the best thing for a guy to get the best out of people,” he said. “You have to compete in practice, you got to compete on game day and you have a chance to get better.”
Said tailback competition was officially joined Monday by Andre Hall, who was signed to Nash’s former spot on the practice squad and will make his on-field debut Wednesday. Hall will wear jersey No. 23.
Back in the offseason, we profiled Hall, who told reporters that the Broncos were one of the teams to interview him at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
“I saw a commercial with a little Chinese guy, and he says, ‘I guess I’ll go play for the Broncos. Anybody can make it over there.’ I guess he meant he could play running back,” Hall said at the time. “It seems like every year those guys get a good running back.”
In college, Hall was just that for the Bulls, gaining 1,357 yards as a junion and then 1,374 as a senior last fall. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Hall is how he gained his yardage in 2005 — against a host of defenses that stacked eight or even nine men in the box and had little reason to play the Bulls honest. USF ran the ball on 65.6 percent of their 2005 snaps, and scored all but eight of their 31 offensive touchdowns for the year on the ground.
But when Hall got the ball, he simply executed — in the way the Broncos like to see their runners do so.
“I’m a one-cut, get upfield, one-and-go guy,” Hall said at the Combine. “I like to just get it and go.”
Now, after bouncing through camps of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears, he’ll have the chance to make a go of it with the Broncos — and to have his say in the competition for carries.