With the break of day this morning, surprising news has come out of Colorado as it has been announced the Denver Broncos have released long-time running back Willis McGahee. McGahee carried the ball 167 times for 731 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, splitting carries with his backfield mates Knowshon Moreno and to a lesser extent, Ronnie Hillman.
With the draft selection of Wisconsin Badgers star Montee Ball and lingering concerns over injury issues which have followed McGahee everywhere he has traveled in the NFL, it was finally enough. McGahee’s departure leaves one glaring question:
Just how big will Knowshon Moreno’s new role be in the Denver Broncos offense in 2013?
Knowshon Moreno was drafted out of Georgia with the 12th overall pick of the 2012 draft, arriving in the Mile High City with a ton of promise after an explosive career in the SEC. The Belford, New Jersey native has dealt with a string of injury issues since, and some concerns about his overall durability and ability to be a featured-back in the NFL, but also has his supporters who were impressed with his production in limited time in 2012 (138 carries for 525 yards and four touchdowns over only eight games).
Montee Ball’s straight-forward, hard-nosed running style will be complemented by Moreno’s quickness and ability to turn broken plays into something worthy of a highlight reel. Will the Broncos inject Ball into the featured back role from day one? Are they that confident in his ability?
There’s nothing to suggest this won’t be the case, but, if Moreno can return to 100% health, there’s also nothing to suggest he can’t give Ball a run for his money as the every down back. Some knee issues are still present for Moreno, as his participation in optional training activities has been limited to this point. This is a precautionary measure, however, and not one indicative of his overall health and readiness for the 2013 season.
In short, McGahee’s departure is the biggest moment in the young career of Knowshon Moreno. Denver fans who have called for him to have a greater role and be given the chance to show he was deserving of a first-round pick a few years ago will have their wish granted this fall, one way or another.
It’s up to John Fox — and to some degree, Montee Ball — to determine just how expansive that role will be.