As dynamic as the Denver Broncos‘ passing game could be this season — and it could be quite a lethal unit with Peyton Manning — the Denver rushing attack is a different story. After riding Willis McGahee for much of last season and ending up with one of the best running games in the NFL, there doesn’t appear to be a true number one back this season, which will force the Broncos to use a committee of at least three different running backs in 2013.
Both Manning and the Broncos had high hopes for rookie Montee Ball, but he has not stood out during the preseason. Ball will be a great power option and could get a lot of work near the goal line, but it may be too early in his career for him to be counted on to be a well-rounded running back that can give the Broncos everything they need from that position.
Denver also has high hopes this season for second-year running back Ronnie Hillman, who looks like he’ll be the starter when the regular season gets underway. Hillman has shown a great burst both last season and during the preseason, and he has the potential to create big plays. But he’s also had problems with ball security this preseason, which could be a huge problem for the Broncos. If Hillman can’t avoid turnovers, there will be a limit to how many touches the Broncos will be able to give him, turning him into nothing more than a part-time player.
Finally there is Knowshon Moreno, whose roster spot was in jeopardy early in the preseason, but he could end up getting meaningful playing time. Moreno did an adequate job of filling in for McGahee the second half of last season, and he deserves to get some touches as a runner as well as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Most importantly, Moreno is the best blocker of the three running backs, and with Denver’s offensive line dealing with several injuries Moreno’s blocking skills will be needed as he’ll have to play in key spots.
With expectations high and a trip to the Super Bowl on their mind, the Broncos would prefer to be more settled at the running back position, especially since it would help them balance their dynamic passing attack. But as the season goes along, Denver will have to sort out roles in their backfield among Ball, Hillman, and Moreno and hope that things come together.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.