Willis McGahee was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list last week, opening up a chance for someone else to step up in the Broncos backfield.
While many thought Ronnie Hillman would be the biggest beneficiary of increased reps, Moreno assumed the starting role and performed admirably.
The question now becomes whether or not Moreno can sustain success and become a legitimate feature back—the type of back that Denver presumed to be drafting in the first round back in 2009. Moreno has been given plenty of chances to succeed and thrive for the Broncos and yet has largely been a bust.
Why should this time be any different?
What one must first remember is that Moreno is still only 25 years old. In his rookie season, he gained 947 yards and seven touchdowns on 247 carries.
The returns have declined with each passing season, but the offense has changed this year. Moreno is now joined in the backfield by quarterback Peyton Manning, the type of QB that can elevate the play of those around him.
When Manning is on the field, defenses are forced to respect the passing game at all times. Short, intermediate and deep passes are all on the table on every down, and loading the box to stop the run often becomes out of the question.
This opens up doors for the guy waiting for Manning's handoffs. Edgerrin James had a lengthy career beside Manning, and while he was a great back on his own, no one would argue he did not benefit from lining up with No. 18.
A running back with endless potential waiting to finally be tapped into. He has a strong but lean 5'11", 200-pound frame and has shown the ability to be a complete back. Moreno is a strong downhill runner with great lateral quickness. He has solid hands and is a legitimate force in the pass-catching game and has a tremendous ability to make the first defender miss.
You may not know these things based off of his play in recent years, but the talent is there and was on constant display during his career at the University of Georgia. Moreno is a player that needs the right situation and the right motivation to succeed, and the current state of the Broncos is just that situation.
Is he an elite NFL RB?
No, and he may never be. Week 12 was just one solid outing that showed flashes of the talent Moreno possesses. There is no reason to jump to conclusions and anoint Moreno as the next big thing, but he has potential and perhaps may be finally ready to live up to it.
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