Remember the days when the Broncos used to crank out 1,000-yard runners like they were cars coming off an assembly line?
They may not have one in 2009. By design.
Their three free-agent signees at tailback combined for 919 yards last season. Correll Buckhalter had 369, LaMont Jordan 363 and J.J. Arrington 187.
So who's going to be the starter among that group? Conventional thinking has Buckhalter opening the season No. 1. The same Buckhalter who has missed three entire NFL seasons with knee problems.
They may all prove to be valuable contributors next season, but it says here that none of the three is the Broncos' best tailback. That distinction would go to Peyton Hillis, who was the talk of the locker room during his short-lived stint as the starter in 2008.
Hillis has one major obstacle working against him. And no, I'm not talking about the torn hamstring that ended his season. He figures to return from that.
Hillis' issue is that he wasn't drafted or signed by the new regime. He's a Mike Shanahan guy, a Jim Goodman guy. And if Josh McDaniels' first two months on the job have proven anything, it's this: Bad things tend to happen to Shanahan/Goodman guys.
Who knows? Maybe Hillis will get the gig anyway. Or maybe, given the injury history of some of the free-agent signees, maybe he'll get it by default. At any rate, the kid showed enough last season to earn a chance to start.