An opening for Dayne


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Jan 22, 2006
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An opening for Dayne
New deal might offer run-up to be Broncos' top back
Lee Rasizer, Rocky Mountain News
March 4, 2006

Everything Ron Dayne has wanted since entering the NFL finally could be there for the taking: a chance to become a workhorse running back in a system suited to his talents.
All that's standing between Dayne and that opportunity could be his signature on the dotted line on a new contract with the Denver Broncos.

The two sides, working on a two- to three-year deal, spoke again Friday.

It's Dayne's feeling the contract will get done soon, perhaps before the free-agency period begins Sunday night.

"I'm confident, because I want to be here and they want me," he said.

Should the deal get done as expected, Dayne would become the front-runner to inherit the workload vacated by Mike Anderson, who was released Wednesday.

Releasing Anderson was a cost-cutting measure to save salary-cap space, but it also reflected the team's confidence in Dayne. He played sparingly last season, mainly because his style was so similar to Anderson's, but he averaged 5.1 yards an attempt on 53 carries.

Denver's coaches liked Dayne's attitude while he waited in the wings, and they are confident that, with another off-season in their conditioning program and with the fine-tuning of other skills such as pass blocking and receiving, he could emerge as a force as a between-the-tackles runner.

"If they give me a chance to play, I'll definitely be happy about that," he said. "I can't really argue or complain about the role they gave me last year. They never told me anything wrong or lied to me. They always said, 'You'll get your chance, but you know it's Mike and Tatum (Bell), and whenever you get the chance to go out there, show everybody what you've got.' "

Although it might seem like eons ago that Dayne was college football's all-time leading rusher while at the University of Wisconsin, he will turn 28 this month and has averted wear and tear by carrying more than 200 times in a season only once, as a rookie in 2000 with the New York Giants.

Cynics might say he hasn't earned that playing time, but Dayne sees it differently.

"I've never really had the opportunity to go out and carry a team, like Mike and Tatum did this year," he said. "Even in New York, I never really had a chance to carry the team. I was in there one game and the next game, Tiki (Barber) was back or I didn't get any carries."

Dayne's career best in starts came in 2001, with seven. He rushed 585 times for 2,067 yards and 16 touchdowns during his five seasons with the Giants, never approaching his billing as a Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick.

He sees the Broncos' zone-blocking scheme and his one-cut style as a solid match.

"I think I can carry a team and we can do big things," he said.

The only downside to Dayne's potentially bigger workload with the Broncos is it took Anderson's release to possibly achieve it.

"That's my homeboy," he said. "I thought we'd be back together."

Instead, he'll be reunited with Bell.

And while Bell's open-field speed is unquestioned, he has yet to earn confidence that he'll be anything more than a change-of-pace option, rather than an every-down candidate who can pound between the tackles.

That will be Bell's challenge this spring and summer.

There will be competition elsewhere, too.

Denver signed Cedric Cobbs to its practice squad last season and he has the size, speed and foot quickness to possibly make himself a factor in the running back competition.

The Broncos were interested in picking him in the third round in 2004 but instead opted for Bell a round earlier.

They claimed Cobbs off waivers in September from the New England Patriots, so he'll be participating in his first off-season with the Broncos.

It's highly likely, too, the team will add another, younger running back in the draft in April to broaden the competition.

Denver has two No. 1 draft picks but has yet to select a back higher than the second round during coach Mike Shanahan's tenure.

"They always get backs that can really play," Dayne said. "We'll just have to see which way they want to go.",2777,DRMN_23918_4514661,00.html
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