The Denver Broncos were the greatest offense in the league last year, and more of that success was due to the prominent passing game than running the rock.
Still, running was important indeed. It kept defenses honest and when the Broncos offensive line got going, they steamrolled opponents down the stretch run of the season. And even when it wasn’t overly successful, sticking to the run game made defenses stay honest while it created some semblance of balance.
Knowshon Moreno enjoyed a career year. His fifth season was something special; Moreno went over 1,000 yards (1,038) with a career-high in rushing touchdowns (10) and scores overall (13). He rushed with purpose, still looking to run away from defenders most of the time, but lowering his shoulder and creating contact to punish would-be tacklers at the end of some runs.
Against New England in the regular season, Moreno was magnificent. His 224 yards on 37 carries were each single-game career-highs; his army crawl after one run was symbolic of his relentless running effort.
But, while Denver waited and finally saw Moreno reach his potential this season, now it’s likely they’ll see him walk out of those Dove Valley doors, never to return to the Mile High City in orange and blue. With his rookie contract done, Moreno is set to make big-time money this year; the Broncos will almost certainly lose him.
In fact, it’s likely multiple teams are looking at gaining the services of Moreno, including the New York Giants, as Lou Musto wrote here today.
That means losing a back that can do everything you could hope for; run with power and speed, hold the rock securely and not turn it over, pass-block and catch passes out of the backfield.
While John Elway and his front office has taken running backs in back-to-back drafts, Ronnie Hillman seems to be teetering on the edge of the abyss, while Montee Ball really ran well as his first season wore on.
The Broncos can lose Moreno as long as Ball — who racked up the mileage on his legs while running at Wisconsin — is able to stay healthy and continue to improve. He still leaves something to be desired in the pass-blocking department, something he should get better at over time, although it’s clear he can catch the football.
Still, should Denver rely on Ball as their primary running back?
If the Broncos do indeed lose Moreno to “greener” pastures — more money and a new home — in free agency, they must look at bringing in a veteran to help spell Ball.
One possibility is Darren McFadden, who’s burned the Broncos for years with the Oakland Raiders. Of course, McFadden has been injured often, so a dual-back approach with Ball could work.
Another option could be Ben Tate of the Houston Texans, who doesn’t mind being the backup — as he was to Arian Foster for years — and he really has a nose for the goal line down in the red zone.
It remains to be seen what the Broncos will do at running back, but when Moreno walks, they’ll have to add depth in one way or another. After drafting running backs high in each of the last two drafts, bringing in a free agent seems more likely.
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