The Denver Broncos were a potent offense in 2012, finishing fourth in the NFL in total yards, but their running game still left a lot to be desired. Peyton Manning was every bit the elite field general that executive vice president of football operations John Elway could have wanted in his first season under center. Still, the team can’t depend on Manning exclusively to get them that coveted Super Bowl that has eluded the team since Elway retired, and that’s where the running game comes into play.
Even though the Broncos were solid offensively as a whole, the running game ranked 16th, gaining an average of 114.5 yards per game. That number is fine for a top five passing attack like the team had, but the real disappointing part is the fact that they averaged just 3.8 yards per carry which tied for 23rd in the league.
Former Wisconsin Badgers running back Montee Ball arrives in the Mile High City with plenty of expectations from team brass and the future Hall of Famer under center in Manning. His impressive career in Madison was one thing, but many expect those skills to translate over quite well at the next level. He may not be the biggest back in the world at 5’10” 214lbs., but Ball has plenty of size and leg drive to move the pile in short yardage situations. Perhaps what makes him most attractive to a team like Denver is his willingness to step up and make a block in pass protection to pick up oncoming blitzers.
While the competition will be stiff with Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, and Ronnie Hillman still on the roster, it’s highly unlikely that the Broncos will carry that many backs into the 2013 campaign. The running back by committee mentality was adequate in 2012, but McGahee with 731 yards led the team while Moreno at 525 was second and Hillman with 330 was third. Ball brings certain elements from all of these backs’ games to the table with a little bit more upside potential.
Clearly Manning has acknowledged the likelihood of Ball becoming the primary ball carrier in the 2013 season. Of the youngster’s development during the offseason programs, Manning said:
“We’re just kind of going through plays, going through games, getting him comfortable hearing audibles at the line of scrimmage. Because we are going to count on him in a big way this year. He’s a rookie, but coach (John) Fox isn’t going to bring him along slowly.”
If there was any question as to Ball’s role coming into the season prior to Manning taking him under his wing, it seems like all of those were put to rest with these comments. The coaching staff believes in him, the franchise quarterback believes in him, and Ball has the skill set to make an immediate impact at the NFL level. Don’t be surprised if the rookie is lining up seven yards deep behind Manning on a regular basis this coming season with over 1,000 yards rushing looking like a real possibility.