It's going to be a tough season for Willis McGahee.
[Tracy] Porter (knee), running back Willis McGahee (ribs), linebacker Nate Irving (concussion) and wide receiver Matt Willis (hamstring) all left the game and did not return.
Turning 31 years old in late October, McGahee is obviously an aging running back. Still, he has been quite reliable for the Denver Broncos and had collected 177 rushing yards through the first two contests of 2012.
Now, though, 2012 has simply increased its difficulty.
On the bright side for Broncos fans, Denver does have depth in the backfield. Knowshon Moreno provides experience despite the limited contributions thus far, and Lance Ball and rookie Ronnie Hillman only add to the rotation.
As long as Peyton Manning is under center, however, don't expect to Broncos to be running heavily this season. McGahee is certainly the best option in the backfield, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Denver push for a faster pace as we near midseason.
Meaning: More passes and faster developing plays to keep the ball moving and increase the number of possessions.
To that end, here's what to expect from McGahee for the remainder of 2012.
How will the Broncos' regular season pan out?
Not much will change regardless of which running back is in the backfield.
With Manning at the helm and Eric Decker's continued reliability, a pass-first attack won't change. Denver just needs the ground game to be effective when needed, as no offense can consistently move the chains without it.
As for McGahee, the Broncos won't be as strong of a rushing threat if he doesn't immediately return. That being said, at least Denver can constantly change the pace and keep a defense off balance with Moreno, Ball and Hillman.
One other thing to keep in mind is how an opponent game-plans for the Broncos. This only puts more emphasis on defending the Denver passing game and adding pressure to the receivers. So to counter any heavy coverage looks, Manning can just spread out the defense and any back could run inside.
In short, for the most part, it doesn't entirely matter which ball-carrier is present.
Yes, McGahee is Denver's best option and is certainly more established than anyone else for the Broncos. Still, this is Peyton Manning, and his passing ability will force a defense to back off, which opens running lanes for anyone.
Before the season began, it was difficult to imagine any Broncos running back being a viable fantasy football option.
After all, combine the addition of Peyton Manning with a brutal early schedule and that's not too appealing. In other words, a pass-heavy philosophy was rightfully expected to get through the first half of 2012.
Not to mention McGahee's age played a factor. Now, however, it would be safe to keep him on the bench until we find out more about his status. Being the Broncos' best and most experienced running back, that dependency cannot be replaced for Denver's offense.
Interestingly enough, the Broncos have attempted 75 runs in three games, and McGahee has been given 50 of them. Therefore, it's either McGahee in the single back formations or a trio of lesser-established ball-carriers.
He's the only Broncos back worthy of a fantasy play, so keep him around for now.
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