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Running back again a key question mark heading into camp

2007 season recap

Denver again disappoints. Denver finished out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year, the first time the Broncos have missed the playoffs in back-to-back years since 2000-01. The Broncos finished the season losing four of its final six games.

Key camp questions

Is Tom Nalen ready to start at center?
When asked about his injury, Nalen said ... nothing. Mainly because the Broncos offensive line doesn't talk. Nalen is coming off an injury and his presence is critical to an offensive line that will start rookie Ryan Clady at left tackle and Ryan Harris -- who has never started an NFL game -- on the other side. Nalen will be counted on in training camp to help smooth the tranisition on the offensive line -- one of the strengths of the team in recent years.

Can Brandon Marshall emerge as the team's play maker?
Marshall finished the season strong scoring five touchdowns in the final seven games of the season. Marshall has the tools, but got caught up in some extra curricular activities during the offseason. One note able incident occurred when Marshall suffered injuries when he fell through a TV -- even though he first blamed it on an innocent McDonald's bag. Marshall, however, isn't expected to miss any time in training camp and his health will be one of the things to watch during training camp.

Is the defensive line ready to take it to the next level?
The Broncos invested heavily in the defensive line in last year's draft, selecting Tim Crowder, Jarvis Moss and Marcus Thomas. With some mixed results. Crowder's four sacks tied him for fifth in the league among rookies. He recorded sacks in three straight games, something no Bronco had done since 2004. Thomas made five stars at defensive tackle, while Moss had his season cut short by injury. The trio will need to be at its best -- especially against the run -- with LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and Darren McFadden in the division.

Key position battle

Running back committee: Selvin Young appears to be the front-runner for the starting spot, but you never know with coach Mike Shanahan. Young will be challenged by Andre Hall and Michael Pittman. But the most intriguing possibility is fifth-round pick Ryan Torain out of Arizona State. Shanahan likes to keep people guessing and isn't afraid to make an unexpected decision. This one might not be settled until the end of training camp.

Rookie spotlight

T Ryan Clady: The Broncos have made a practice of turning second-day draft picks into starting offensive linemen. Clady, the 12th overall selection, is a change in that approach. Clady will be given the left tackle job and he is expected to come in and contribute immediately. That is, if he gets signed in time. Recent reports in the Denver Post indicate that if Clady signs prior to training camp, it will take some serious negotiations.

Player on the spot

QB Jay Cutler: Cutler passed for 3,497 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. But Denver quarterbacks are measured in championships and Cutler has yet to get the Broncos to the playoffs during his year-and-a-half as the Broncos starting quarterback.

Fantasy focus

Running backs:Mike Shanahan has many enemies in the world of fantasy football with his running back by committee approach. Shanahan, as previously mentioned, isn't above starting a rookie or pulling a candidate out of the stands to start a running back. (Alright, that might be pushing it.) The running back who wins the job will have a significant fantasy impact, just don't forget to "handcuff" him to his backup.

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