This has to be his last chance, doesn’t it?
Along with yesterday’s unfortunate news that the Denver Broncos would likely lose their most productive running back for the rest of the regular season (or at least one might speculate), came the reality that Moreno – once again – would get another shot. A shot to tote the rock. A shot to “not” fumble. A shot to show the NFL that he’s healthy. A shot to show he can be responsible off the field. A shot to prove that maybe, just maybe, he was worth the 12th overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Few people would vehemently oppose a label of “bust” for Moreno. The term might not be entirely fair, but it’s not far off the mark.
On draft day back in 2009, Moreno became a Bronco under great scrutiny. And to date, that hasn’t changed much. Josh McDaniels, who then coached a team that had far more defensive woes than offensive shortcomings, used an awfully high draft pick on a running back. Furthermore, he took Moreno over players like Brian Orakpo (13) and Brian Cushing (15). Right away, Moreno was under the gun to produce.
As a rookie, he did – sort of. McDaniels was bound and determined to show the world why he felt Moreno was worth such a high selection. As such, he put the ball in Moreno’s hands more than 15 times per game; Moreno posted a modest 59.2 rushing yards per game average. At a 3.8 per attempt rate, he certainly wasn’t terrible, but he also wasn’t good in short yardage situations, he didn’t find the end zone particularly well (Moreno scored just seven touchdowns on the ground) and he had a tendency to cough up the ball (posting four fumbles on the season).
Moreno entered his sophomore campaign with a nagging hamstring injury and never fully hit his stride. By year’s end, he was just an afterthought, posting only 17 carries in the Broncos’ final three games.
The 2011 season saw a potential resurgence, as Moreno was off to his best game as a professional in week eight against Kansas City (four carries for 52 yards). But even that was short-lived, as the third year back left the game – and the season – with a torn ACL. During the offseason, the Broncos re-signed the aging McGahee and drafted San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman in the third round.
And that brings us to the here and now. After a costly fumble in week two versus the Falcons, Knowshon found a comfortable role on the bench – which is where he’s been ever since.
To his credit, Moreno has been the ultimate pro through his current adverse situation. He hasn’t sulked. He hasn’t griped to the media. In fact, on Sundays, it’s been Moreno, wearing his Broncos sweat suit, regularly dishing out high-fives to teammates as they come off the field.
“It’s been tough,” Moreno told the media yesterday, as he was peppered with questions about McGahee and his new-found opportunity. “You just want to go out there and help your team win. I took the approach where I was helping my team win in practice, doing any type of special-teams or scout-team work that I needed to do to help the team win. That’s the approach I was taking.”
On Sunday, another type of opportunity to help his team win will come in a big way – on the field. While veteran Lance Ball is the “steady” choice in the Broncos backfield, he also doesn’t provide the Broncos with much of a home run threat; Ball is the quintessential “he is what he is” type of back. The rookie Hillman offers a bit more electricity, but he’s also much smaller than Ball, making him a potential liability in the pass protection.
All three backs will likely get their snaps. But at 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds, and with a pair of now-healthy and fresh legs, it’s Moreno – in theory – who provides the Broncos with their best solution. When healthy, Moreno has the best combination of speed and strength among the three; plus, he can catch passes and pass block. If he does what he’s capable of doing, Moreno could be a major factor in the Broncos’ quest for a Super Bowl run.
But he’s got to do it.
“You just never know when your chance is going to be,” Moreno said. “When your chances do come, you’ve got to make the most of those and go about it the right way.”
His chance is now. Again.