Denver Broncos: Has Knowshon Moreno Completely Taken over the RB Job in Denver?
Entering the season, Knowshon Moreno was an afterthought.
The first-round draft selection out of the University of Georgia in 2009 was about to enter his fifth year in Denver. The Broncos had drafted running back Ronnie Hillman in the third round of the 2012 draft and had recently drafted running back Montee Ball out of the University of Wisconsin with their second-round selection in the 2013 draft.
It appeared that one of the young backs—Ball or Hillman—would be Denver's starting running back when it opened the season versus the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Back in May and June during OTAs and minicamp, former Broncos starting running back, Willis McGahee, was working out on his own before eventually being released by the team in June. Moreno was recovering from offseason knee surgery, which limited his reps before training camp started.
Ball and Hillman both received first-team reps during OTAs, with Hillman eventually being named the starting running back when the team's first depth chart was released at the beginning of training camp in late July.
However, after a preseason that saw neither Hillman nor Ball impress with first- and second-team reps—Hillman had problems with fumbling, while Ball was unable to run the ball effectively—the Broncos unexpectedly named the veteran Moreno to start the season opener versus the Ravens.
In Week 1's 49-27 victory over Baltimore, none of Denver's three running backs had an impressive outing.
Moreno started the game, and he contributed with his pass blocking and receiving ability—he had three receptions for 37 yards—but he ran for just 28 yards on nine carries.
Both Hillman and Ball received carries in the victory, but they combined for just 39 yards on 12 carries.
In total, the Broncos' three-headed rushing attack ran for just 67 yards on 21 carries.
The lack of a running game was an afterthought following the game, due to the victory and Peyton Manning's seven-touchdown performance.
But the question still remained, "Who would take control of the running game?"
Fast-forward a week later, and it appears that we have our answer.
In spite of both Hillman and Ball being products of the John Fox regime—both were drafted by Coach Fox, while Moreno was drafted by ex-head coach Josh McDaniels—Moreno has taken control of the driver's seat for the Broncos.
Starting for the second straight week versus the New York Giants in Week 2, Moreno was one of the Broncos' stars of the game. The fifth-year back ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries in the Broncos' 41-23 victory.
The rookie Ball ran for just 16 yards on 12 carries. Second-year man Hillman had just one carry for three yards.
As Manning and the Broncos offense continue to shred opposing defenses with the passing game, it's becoming more clear as to who the Broncos' best option out of the backfield is.
It's been known that Moreno is a superb pass-blocker and receiver out of the backfield—just look at the hit he laid on Giants defensive back Terrell Thomas in the first half to free tight end Julius Thomas on a pass reception that was negated by a penalty.
What has always been a lingering question since he was drafted is his consistency running the football.
His performance in Week 2, combined with the continuing struggles of Ball and Hillman—on Ball's first carry of the game, he fumbled the ball on the Broncos' first drive while in the red zone—has made Moreno the go-to back of the Broncos offense.
What was once one of the Broncos' most intriguing competitions throughout training camp and the preseason has now resulted in a definitive answer.
Moreno has taken over the running back job in Denver.
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