The Denver Broncos good luck with injuries ended on Monday when they announced that running back Willis McGahee will miss 6-8 weeks with a torn MCL. McGahee hurt the knee in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos have been very fortunate in terms of injuries this season, but the loss of McGahee will be difficult to overcome. It will be difficult, but not impossible.
The first piece of good news is the toughest part of the Broncos schedule is behind them, and they are playing some less than stellar defenses over the next six weeks. They play the Kansas City Chiefs twice, the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are having a very good season but not because of their defense. Even the Baltimore Ravensare not the same defense as they have been for the past decade. The Broncos will miss McGahee, of course, but the offense should be fine for the rest of the regular season.
As for who replaces McGahee? There will be no one guy who picks up all of the slack; it will be a committee approach. The guess, and it is a guess, is that Ronnie Hillman will get the start but Lance Ball will also play a lot. The Broncos are going to play the back who best fits the situation that the offense is in at any given time. The hope will be that Hillman, with more playing time, will get into the rhythm of the offense. However, the Broncos still are not comfortable with Hillman’s pass blocking, and will use Ball when they want the running back to block.
That’s really a catch 22 for the Broncos because Hillman is a great receiver out of the backfield, but if they can’t trust him to pick up the blitz then it is hard to have him out there in obvious passing situations. In short, the majority of McGahee’s playing time will be split between Ball and Hillman.
The wild card is Knowshon Moreno, the former first-round pick who has been a disappointment to this point in his career. There are some who believe that Moreno is the best running back on the roster and should have been playing all along; I’m not one of them. There are reasons he has been a disappointment and hasn’t played since week two. The coaches don’t believe he can play. Moreno is likely to be active as the third running back but don’t look for him on the field all that much; the coaches don’t trust him.
The biggest thing the Broncos have going for them as they try to survive without McGahee is Peyton Manning. Manning will adjust and do whatever he has to in order to keep the offense moving. Look for more passes to the backs and tight-ends; they will use the short passing game to supplement the running game.
Head coach, John Fox said on Monday that McGahee “Would not require surgery.” Fox also said that McGahee is a “Quick healer.” The playoffs are six weeks away which means McGahee could be back for the playoffs. It’s a tough blow but as they say, it’s next man up. The Broncos are in position with their depth and talent to survive this.
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