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With the release of Willis McGahee on Thursday, it would appear rookie running back Montee Ball now has an excellent shot of earning the starting gig for the Denver Broncos. You might even say that the ball is now in Ball's court.
You might say that, but you probably shouldn't. Eyes will roll.
We start with the departure of McGahee, whom the Broncos cut on Thursday morning, via the team's official Twitter account:
Considering Denver has seven running backs on the roster, McGahee's release wasn't all that surprising. Now, the Broncos have an interesting battle on their hands at the position, with Ball looking to supplant second-year running back Ronnie Hillman and perpetually injured Knowshon Moreno.
It seems likely Ball will be used as the primary back, with Hillman slotting in on third downs and Moreno capable of playing both roles. The combination of Ball and Hillman gives the team a nice inside-outside combination, with Hillman's shiftiness and speed complementing the more power-based style Ball brings to the table.
Obviously, it is way too early to know for sure who will win the running back competition. But with McGahee gone, there isn't an incumbent in the running, and the Broncos wouldn't have used a second-round pick on Ball in this draft unless they saw something they really liked in the Wisconsin man.
Ball had an excellent career for the Badgers, rushing for 5,140 yards and a whopping 77 touchdowns in four seasons. He also added six receiving touchdowns, because why not?
Who will start at running back for the Broncos in Week 1?
He will certainly give the Broncos a bulldozer between the tackles that can move the chains as well as a new dimension on offense. Don't be surprised if the Broncos look to race out to early leads behind Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker through the air before turning to Ball to shorten the game and wear out defenses.
Ball hasn't so much as played a snap in the NFL, but he's already being presented with one of the league's primary lessons—when you have an opportunity, you must seize it. If you don't, someone else will, and you may not get another chance.
The ball is in Ball's court. Let's see how he responds.