The Denver Broncos have added a rookie running back in Montee Ball of out Wisconsin and brought back an expert in the zone-blocking scheme in Alex Gibbs, who from 1995-2003 was very successful as the Broncos’ offensive line coach. Gibbs is now the offensive line consultant and will help Dave Magazu with that unit this season, which won’t go back to a full zone-blocking, one-cut scheme, but they will definitely be using it a lot more often.
This system worked wonders for Gibbs when he was in Denver the first time as it helped Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson and Clinton Portis have their best pro seasons — each topped 1,000 yards in either their rookie or second year in the NFL.
Not only did these guys crack 1,000 yards very early in their career, but they surpassed that mark by quite a bit. Davis was drafted in the sixth round and rushed for 1,538 yards in his second year and followed it with seasons of 1,750 and 2,008 yards. After being drafted in the fourth round, Gary rushed for 1,159 yards in his rookie season. Anderson was drafted in the sixth round and rushed for 1,487 yards in his rookie season. Portis was the only back of these that had elite speed, which got him drafted in the second round and he rushed for 1,508 yards and 1,591 yards in his first two seasons under Gibbs.
Now back comes Gibbs and in comes Ball.
Ball has the best overall skill set of all these backs, but doesn’t have elite speed like the others listed. In other words he may fit the zone-blocking, one-cut system a lot better than these other guys. Portis used his patience and then would make the cut and his speed did most of the work from there. Davis, Gary and Anderson depended heavily on the blocking, stayed patient, made the cut and took what the defense gave them. Ball has better overall skills than all of these backs and if he will use the system, hit the hole, stay patient, use his awareness, vision and agility he should be able to produce in this system as well or better than some of the guys listed.
Don’t expect for Ball to have the huge numbers that some of these guys had for a couple of reasons. First of all, the Broncos will be a pass-heavy team with Peyton Manning and the three elite receivers that they have on the roster. Second, they also have Willis McGahee, who is a pretty good producer and he may benefit from the new blocking scheme as well. At best, a time share will be in Ball’s immediate future, but if or when the Broncos lose McGahee, you can expect big numbers from Ball at that point.