In week 11, the Denver Broncos continued to roll with a win over the San Diego Chargers 30-23. The team had won five consecutive games and everything was good. Early in the game, Broncos leading rusher Willis McGahee went down and fans of the orange and blue were crossing their fingers that the injury was not anything significant.
After Willis McGahee, Bronco fans knew what they had. They had Ronnie Hillman, a rookie running back out of San Diego State that had a quick burst, solid hands but was very poor in pass protection and has not proven to be able to handle a large load. Lance Ball was the third running back, a smaller running back who did was not terrible at anything but also does not seem to excel at many things either. They had a running back out of the University of Auburn, named Mario Fannin, who many are excited to see, but that day may never come based on back to back season ending knee injuries.
And last but not least, they had one of the few remaining pieces that brought back bad memories of the Josh McDaniels era, Knowshon Moreno.
In 2009, the Broncos were coming off an 8-8 season that had a historically poor defense. Mike Shanahan had lost his job and in came Josh McDaniels, the savior offensive guru who had helped coach one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time with the 2007 Patriots. The Broncos had a QB and all seemed good. I do not have to explain what all happened, but after everything leading up to the draft, the Broncos had two first round picks. Many pass rushers were available, but to the shock of many, the Broncos selected running back out of Georgia, Knowshon Moreno.
Knowshon Moreno's 2009 season was filled with ups and downs. He missed all of training camp with an injury but was able to return for the start of the year. The season was good statistically for Knowshon gaining 947 rushing yards, 213 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns but unfortunately, 4 lost fumbles which haunted him..
In 2010, the Broncos were 4-12 and Knowshon had good numbers against, totaling over 1000 yards from scrimmage but again, two lost fumbles and had multiple injuries. Moreno could not get anything going and the label that no player wants to hear kept being applied to Moreno, "BUST." Knowshon seemed to be the guy who would go down on first contact, liked to dance around in the backfield for no gain and could not make the big play.
In the offseason, many changes were made to the Broncos. McDaniels was gone, the man who drafted Knowshon but most thought John Fox would be just what he needs. Willis McGahee was signed and many figured the Broncos would have one of the most menacing rushing attacks with a two back system, and in fact, it looked that way in the pre-season. However, due to sub-par performances and the strong play of Willis McGahee, Knowshon took on a back-up role. Moreno was getting back-up. Against, Kansas City, Knowshon did the thing that we are all so used to. He broke a couple big runs, had 52 yards on 4 carries but unfortunately, went down to a knee injury which ended his season. Many were frustrated with Knowshon, and rightfully so.
In February of 2012, Knowshon Moreno was arrested for a DUI in his car that had a personalized license plate that read "SAUCED." Many figured this was the end. His poor performances, fumble problems, and now law problems seemed to spell the end, With Fannin coming back from injury and the Broncos drafting a running back, many figured this spelt the end. However, as grim as it sounds, Mario Fannin going down may have been the best thing to ever happen to Knowshon. Moreno stuck with the team but in game two against the Falcons, shocker, Knowshon fumbled the ball. He just could not catch a break. Moreno was placed on the practice squad, never complained and continued to learn. He dominated on the practice squad and waited. The Broncos management could have easily cut Knowshon months ago, but they kept him around for exactly what might happen in week 11. The Broncos knew that Lance Ball could not be a full time starter. Ball always squandered his chances with dropped passes ,and minimum gains. Hillman could not pass protect to the level he needed to to stand beside Peyton Manning in the gun.
So in came Knowshon Moreno. Knowshon was playing the team he always did well against. The Chiefs were the only team Moreno had rushed for 100+ against. Moreno had 100+ total yards and never fumbled. So far so good. Knowshon played well against Tampa and then against Oakland and Baltimore, rushed for over 100+ in both games and had touchdowns in both.
SO WHAT NOW?
Knowshon Moreno to me is the feel good story of the year for the Broncos. Knowshon is not a bad guy. He made a huge mistake with the DUI, and has had fumble problems. But he worked hard and took the bull by the horns with this opportunity. In fact, Knowshon has took the label of bust and thrown it in the trash. In 2013, the Broncos have Knowshon under contract for two more years. Next year, he would make $1.7 million.
To me. the decision is a no brainer. In order for this team to continue to succeed, they have to know when to pull the plug. Willis McGahee was above average this year and had a fumble problem. I think in the off-season, it will be time to move on from Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno has earned the starting spot for 2013. The Broncos should still consider signing a running back or drafting one in the middle rounds. However, Knowshon does everything a Peyton Manning back needs to do. He can catch, he can block and he can get the tough yards. Heck, he can hurdle over Hall of Fame safeties. The biggest difference to me is Moreno's ability to hit the hole. He seems to be seeing the field a lot better and does not dance around as much. Also, watch his body. He is running lower and when he goes into contact, he GRIPS THE BALL WITH TWO HANDS.
Knowshon Moreno had turned his career around. Not only does he deserve to be around next year, he has earned the starting spot for next year.