Better offense reason to relax


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Jan 22, 2006
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Better offense reason to relax
Coach Mike Shanahan has a good feeling, especially with the Broncos being able to throw to Javon Walker.
By Bill Williamson
Denver Post Staff Writer

Mike Shanahan sat with his feet kicked up on his desk Wednesday morning, hours away from his 12th season as the Broncos coach.

The man is relaxed. It's as if he knows something. As if he's got all the pieces he wants.

During the 2005 season the Denver defense stood up and improved. The goal this year will be for the offense to do the same - to step up and make plays, one of the coach's favorite sayings.

"Oh yeah, I feel good about what we have this year," Shanahan said of his team's offensive weaponry. "Better than in a long time."

This afternoon, when Denver reports for training camp to begin defense of its AFC West Division title, it will assemble with a piece in place that has been painfully missing the past several seasons: a major playmaker.

Javon Walker is a primary reason Shanahan is so comfortable with his team's offensive potential. Walker is the reason the Broncos may be as balanced as they have been in years.

Yes, Denver will remain a running team with a potential back-by-committee approach. Yes, it will remain a possession, short-yardage throwing team. But it also hopes to be quick-striking, with the presence, when healthy, of one of the premier receivers in the game.

"You always look to upgrade, and we did that," said Shanahan, whose team acquired Walker from Green Bay for a second-round pick on April 29. "This will open up the entire offense. It gives us options. With him and Rod (Smith), we have two guys that are No. 1 receiver types. Who is No. 1? I hope they both are No. 1. One is going to be double teamed and the other is going to have to get open. But those two guys are going to help everything."

And Shanahan expects an immediate impact. There was an asterisk to the draft-day trade because of Walker's health concerns. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the first game of 2005 and missed the rest of the season. After working out well at minicamp earlier this month, Walker received encouraging news from his latest medical check up. Shanahan said Walker will practice once a day in camp - routine for Denver players coming off injuries. He will play some in the preseason and is on target to play fulltime by the season opener Sept. 10.

"He's going to be full speed," Shanahan said. "He's going to be ready."

A healthy and ready Walker means quarterback Jake Plummer is going to have plenty of options. Shanahan said training camp will be a time for him and his new-look offensive staff to explore those opportunities.

For the first time in Shanahan's Denver tenure, there is significant change on his offensive staff. Gary Kubiak, Shanahan's offensive coordinator for his first 11 seasons, now is the head coach in Houston. Shanahan brought in former Denver receivers coach Mike Heimerdinger as assistant head coach to run the passing game. Offensive line coach Rick Dennison was promoted to coordinator and will be in charge of the running game.

"Being balanced is the key," Shanahan said. "To be successful, you have to be strong in both the run and the pass."

Another offensive story line is who will be the primary tailback. Veterans Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne will enter camp as the favorites with young players Cedric Cobbs and Mike Bell also getting looks.

Shanahan said Tatum Bell's speed and game-breaking ability will give him a chance to shine, but all of the other backs also will have a strong chance. Tatum Bell, Dayne and the departed Mike Anderson all played last season as Denver finished No. 2 in the NFL in rushing.

"We believe in our running game and we are confident we are going to have success whether it's one guy or two guys," Shanahan said. "That's what the preseason games are for, to see who'll step up."

Added Denver general manager Ted Sundquist: "If we get 1,800 yards, I don't care if it's one guy or two guys. As long as we get the yards."

Yards, points, wins, Shanahan heads to camp confident in his offense.
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