Willis McGahee Should Start Ahead of Knowshon Moreno

Eric KiddContributor IJuly 29, 2011

McGahee's presence could finally send the Broncos running game back into orbit.
McGahee's presence could finally send the Broncos running game back into orbit.Bob Levey/Getty Images

Earlier today, the Denver Broncos announced that they had come to terms with former Ravens RB Willis McGahee, who was informed of his release on Tuesday.

Although the Broncos may find themselves in a bit of a pickle, considering the NFL has not yet allowed free agents to sign with teams yet, by later this afternoon the Broncos will have a veteran running back presence in their backfield—something they've been missing since the departure of Mike Anderson after the 2005 season. 

Now, with McGahee's arrival, and the flurry of changes happening at Dove Valley, there may be a reason for Broncos fans to be optimistic about the running game for the first time since Mike Shanahan was shown the door.

Knowshon Moreno, the 12th overall selection in the 2009 draft, has been lackluster at best over the last two years. Moreno's versatility in catching passes out of the backfield has been a major strength, but his inability to create separation as a ball carrier has left many Broncos fans yearning for more.

Not known for his breakaway speed (4.5 40 at the NFL combine), Moreno's undersized frame and his tendency to get lost when running in between the tackles has contributed to EVP John Elway's desire to make a move this offseason. While Moreno began to run with a bit more authority over the last year, he has clearly not lived up to his top 15 pick potential. 

McGahee has been through a lot in his seven year tenure in the NFL. After having his ACL, PCL and MCL destroyed in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, McGahee saw his draft stock fall from a sure-fire top five pick to a late first rounder.

Though McGahee was able to have success early on, with 1,000 yard seasons in three of his first four seasons, the emergence of La'Ron McClain in Baltimore coupled with McGahee's inability to stay healthy has led to a decrease in the number of touches for McGahee over each of the last three years.

In 2011, the Broncos will be reverting back to their undeniably successful zone-blocking scheme, which produced a slew of no-name 1,000-plus yard rushers—backs like Ruben Droughns, Olandis Gary and Tatum Bell to name a few.

But perhaps no one on Denver's team should be more excited about that change than McGahee, who hasn't seen more than 200 touches since 2007. The running back's responsibility in this system is to read the movement of the line in front of them, find a gap and get upfield as quickly as possible, which should play to McGahee strengths—vision and awareness.

McGahee has fumbled only three times over his last 30 games; while over that same time period Moreno has seven fumbles. Add to that McGahee's beefed-up frame and fearlessness running inside the tackles, and it becomes clear who the Broncos' best running back is.

The only question remaining is whether Elway and Head Coach John Fox will figure that out before the season or after Week 1.