Sorry it has been so long MHR. The offseason seems to be a time for many of us, including players and teams, to recharge while lesser sports fight over Sunday afternoon TV spots. I've been spending my time raging over the Pacquaio fight and watching Lebron claim what we've all known has been coming to him for the past seven years. I even watched my first golf game on TV and made it through 18 minutes and 37 seconds of the Italy vs. Spain
soccer futball, er futbol, game.
On a positive note, in those 18 minutes I was inspired to add "Play the vuvuzela till my neighbors fire a rifle at my door" to my bucket list. Ironically, it took me nearly 18 minutes to find out how to spell the word vuvuzela using The Google so I have now officially learned how to spell one new word in the same amount of time I spent watching
soccer futbol this offseason.
If only I were so efficient in high school. If only I knew where to find a vuvuzela.
Now all Colorado needs is a professional baseball team and this could have been one of the nicest and most enjoyable true offseasons I've had in awhile (and by true offseason I mean that time after the draft and mini-camps where football players are released into the real world to do fun and silly things like threaten to party with insane Mussolini bred Italian bulls and/or get arrested for resisting arrest in the first place.)
However, now that training camp is mere weeks away and my pale skin is already dreading the beating it is going to take over the next month at Dove Valley, I've decided to move on from golf and my search for the perfect vuvuzela and focus on the things that really matter... Broncos football.
So, in the real spirit of kicking things off as poorly as possible, I've decided to take aim at a player that has all but been shipped out of town on the fastest Greyhound to anywhere but here. A player who by popular demand has been labeled a complete bust by fans the country 'round and yet once again finds himself with another final chance to secure some respectability on this team and in this town.
For one Knowshon Moreno, it truly is now or never... and now would be a really great time.When I first titled this article I thought to myself, I wonder how many times these words have been said about Knowshon Moreno? His injury plagued and underperforming first few years with the Broncos have been a shining beacon of what exactly our problem has been. Too many poor draft choices, too many injuries.
How many times has Moreno stepped onto the field while announcers claim, "This is it. This is his time to prove he's worth his draft stock." I realize this has got to be one of the most un-original Moreno introductions of all time.
So naturally the title stuck.
If McDaniel's was scapegoat numero uno for the Broncos drop from the top then Knowshon has got to be his Robin. The remaining hold-overs from the McDaniel's Reich have started to fall on two sides of the proverbial fence. Side one being the McDaniel's draftees that are admittedly looking pretty good and side two being those draftees that make us want to turn every "This Side Up" box upside down (what can I say, we're pretty hardcore here in The Ranch). Moreno is reigning king of the "This Side Up" hill.
Yet Moreno has one last chance, one final chapter before the curtain falls on his career as a Bronco and he's left to fend for himself on the free agent market, most likely never again to wear a Broncos uniform and ultimately ending the torturous journey for all those Moreno jersey purchasers. Once again it all comes down to now, only this time it literally is now because his contract dries up and the money is no more if he doesn't turn that corner.
In a stroke of luck nobody could have predicted when the Broncos walked off that field in New England, the Broncos landed a QB that needs someone who can catch a little in the backfield. Someone with a skillset that roughly matches our own Knowshon Moreno's.
I sense some heads already shaking. Moreno has had his chances. Time to give him a few carries to make him worth his roster spot then cut the cord. Let him be someone else's headache. However, with one year left on his contract and the Broncos in a strange state of rebuilding limbo the pieces are quietly lining up to give Moreno the best chance he's ever had to make it, and make it big.
Here's how it happened.
It Started At the Top
We can all agree the common denominator to the Broncos is Peyton Manning. No Broncos conversation can get very far without the obligatory Manning effect comment and the predictable nodding of heads of the majority like delegates at a campaign caucus. Ah yes, Manning, how could we have forgotten? Well that clears it up. Then you add to the fact the Elway is up there pulling the strings and what worries have we got?
Only this team is full of worries and it begins at the very core of this new Broncos team. It's the family secret we all know but can't speak of. For Moreno, it might be the one big break finally going his way. This Broncos team has quietly built itself up to give him one last chance to shine or bust big time in the limelight. They need him to be good.
The Denver Broncos of 2012 have three main goals, and they are most decidedly in this order:
1. Keep Peyton Manning healthy.
2. Score lots of points.
3. Win football games.
The Broncos this year, like every year, are going to tell you that they are planning on making it to the Superbowl. Duh. Winning is everything and they'll do whatever it takes to win. That's always nice to hear but we just lived through a season of "whatever it takes to win" and the general consensus amongst Bronco brass was that we were not winning the right way. We want to win, but we don't really want to win quite like that.
So the Broncos made the big change, bet the farm on Manning and waited to see how the dust settled.
In a flippant moment of Elway humor, John uttered the five words that will, for better or worse, become immortalized in Bronco lore.
"There Is No Plan B."
Does it give you chills? It should. For Bronco fans it will become as immortal as other five word phrases like "Luke, I Am Your Father" and "There Is No Spoon, Bro".
Obligatory Keanu Reeves Tangent:
The "bro" is merely silent and assumed after every Keanu Reeves spoken line. For example
- "If we're gonna waste the dude, we oughta get paid for it. I mean, that's the American way, ain't it... (bro)?"
- "I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn't be our style. Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever... (bro)"
- "What if the CIA invented dinosaurs to discourage time travel..bro?"
See, it's always there, just silent most of the time.
So confident are the Broncos, particularly John Elway, in Plan A that they drafted a QB whose main purpose is to sneak Words With Friends onto his iPad, reach the Oreos on the top shelf and photobomb as many player pictures as possible during training camp (a wonderful benefit of being taller than everyone else.)
So confident are the Broncos that they drafted a QB that hasn't signed with the team because he hasn't been guaranteed enough money to make up for the fact that in a perfect situation he won't see a single legitimate snap his entire rookie contract.
In a moment of honesty John Elway said something we all already knew deep inside. We bet it all on Peyton Manning. That was step one and we are okay with that. The Broncos would figure out the next steps when they came up.
With little shock to anyone the Broncos have begun adding quick route players to this offense to complement... well, to complement something. A run game? A deep pass game? What exactly is this team good at that we should complement it?
Well, we know that whatever Peyton Manning can do we must complement that.
Considering the investment made in Manning and the uncertainty of his future, maybe the quick route has become the game. The Patriots way once again returns to Bronco country.
Let me explain how this all gets back to Moreno.
The Broncos are not really a deep threat team. Our deepest threats are a couple of wide receivers who some believe were hindered by a QB many claim couldn't throw. But Tebow was just a nice distraction from the fact that neither of our #1 or #2 receivers are even top 5 in our own division and found only moderate to little success even before Tebow took the reigns from Orton. These are the weapons we take on the mighty defenses of the AFC with? Hardly.
The Broncos as a run team have changed dramatically. Tebow was the lifeblood of our run offense. Revisionist history will try and give more and more credit to McGahee as time passes, but the reality is the Broncos gave up their most important piece of their potent run offense for a couple marginal draft picks. Our run game, minus Tebow, is back to square one. The system will be new for all runningbacks on this roster.
Thankfully that O-line there is so good. Only we all know that also isn't entirely true.
Don't get me wrong. The O-line did a stellar job adjusting to an offense that was supposed to be more "are you really going to do that... again?" than "real NFL offense". Yet, for as great as this offensive line was at protecting a scrambling Tebow and creating gaps in a stretched out field, their pure pass protection left a little to be desired.
Under Manning we can assume that stretching the field with the option is simply not an option and he, the ultimate pocket QB, will be looking to throw the ball. The question is, how far will he be looking to throw it? The slowly evolving reality is probably not real far much of the time. The more time he sits in that pocket, the scarier it gets for everyone.
Remember, rule #1 is keep Manning safe.
Ideally, the Broncos would love for Manning to never get sacked. I don't mean that flippantly like ideally the Broncos would love to win every game. I mean that the Broncos would really really like Peyton take almost zero sacks this year. As such, they will no doubt create an offense that thrives on short passes and effective screens, a strength of Manning's game. We just got smoked twice by a team that runs an offense very similar to this one. Too bad ours doesn't come with a Gronkowski/Hernandez duo.
It's Manning's job to make Tamme/Dreessen sound like something more than a pornstar.
All of this, Manning, his health, the acquiring of multiple tight ends, the drafting of a quick pass catching runningback and a very large center, has worked together to create a prime opportunity for our maligned runningback Knowshon Moreno to make himself a valuable asset to an offense that won't want to spend the time to let many plays evolve for much time.
The Broncos want to keep Tamba Hali and Antwan Barnes as far away from Manning as possible. Moreno may be able to help with that.
Considering Our Options at Running Back
No doubt McGahee will remain our solid #1. His downhill running style will be a nice change of pace and help keep defenses honest. He has some ability to catch passes in the backfield and will no doubt continue to develop that aspect of his game. We know what we are getting with McGahee... so long as he stays healthy.
This new draftee Ronnie HIllman is already creating excitement with his speed and moves, he just can't seem to hold onto the football. His development is not only critical to the success of this offense, but also to the draft legacy of this new Broncos team. Hillman is a wildcard.
Lance Ball is a serviceable backup but not a guy that will lead you through a playoff race. His carries will hopefully be designed to keep the rest of our running backs fresh.
Finally, we have Knowshon Moreno who has found himself about to get voted off after injuring himself in what was turning into a career day in KC. In a couple weeks from now, and a full eight months from the crushing day that saw him carted off the field with a towel over his head trying to cover the tears that were no doubt a mixture of pain and frustration knowing that injury could have spelled the end to his days as a Bronco, Moreno will once again play in front of a very critical home crowd.
Now, one last chance has fallen into his lap. The Broncos need a pass catching running back in the backfield that can gain an edge and put a move on a defender or two. They need a safety valve for when our O-line gets blown up. They need what Moreno was sold to us as having when he was drafted by he-who-shall-not-be-named so long ago.
The general consensus may be that Moreno is all but done in Denver but I think that just about all of us are a little curious as to what Moreno is going to bring to this offense and will be watching intently to see if his one last shot turns him into that guy we all thought he could be.
For Knowshon Moreno the time is right now to, in the immortal words of Keanu Reeves quoting Ricky Bobby,
Shake and Bake... bro.