Denver Broncos rookie running back Montee Ball looks impressive in training camp. When I heard that the Broncos had drafted him No. 58 overall in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin, I was more than pleasantly surprised. As a Badger, the 5-foot-10, 220-pound running back was a physical runner between the tackles and showed explosive speed in the open field. Ball set two Division I FBS records in Madison: 83 total touchdowns and 77 career rushing touchdowns.
Ball realizes that the Broncos didn’t draft him simply to run the football. Obviously, his first responsibility will be protecting Peyton Manning from getting hammered and being knocked on his rear. And, of course, protecting the franchise quarterback from being dinged near the head and suffering any kind of head or neck injury. No Denver fan wants to see Manning’s neck, especially after four neck surgeries, get exposed by the lack of a proper blitz pickup.
Ball is in the race for the starting running back job against the injury-plagued, inconsistent Knowshon Moreno as well as the much smaller yet speedy second-year man out of San Diego State, Ronnie Hillman. The Broncos waived running back Willis McGahee on June 16 due to health concerns. There is no doubt that McGahee was a great back as a Bronco, yet being injury and fumble prone cost him in the end. Due to these factors, Ball has leaped to the forefront for the starting job. His running and blocking abilities have impressed thus far at Broncos training camp, and he has said all the right things as well.
Ball told the Denver Post, “Honestly, it’s 60 percent pass protection, 40 percent running the ball.” He also stated, “In the NFL, it’s no secret: It’s a passing league. And on this team, when you have a great quarterback like we have, you’ve got to protect him.” Clearly, the 22-year-old Ball is already wise beyond his years. Plus, from college to the pros, he has shown the ability to run the ball as well as pass protect. In his junior year at Wisconsin, he was the primary pass protector for the great Russell Wilson. And as the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks last season, Wilson was voted Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year in 2012.
Ball will see plenty of time on the field this preseason with both the first- and second-team offenses. He has been impressive in training camp. Look for him to win the starting job for the upcoming 2013-14 NFL season.