In this second installment into this series, I feel compelled to clarify a few things before I get to the juicy #2 thing I want to see in the pre-season games/Training Camp. First, don't mistake things I'm not covering as things I don't want to see. You want to see how Brock progresses this year? SO DO I, and probably more than you! The difference between me saying that Holiday standing on the sidelines is more important than watching Brock grow before my eyes has nothing to do with 3-4 years from now. It has everything to do with winning the Super Bowl.
Whether Brock plays at a 2012 Aaron Rogers level during the pre-season is inconsequential and relatively unimportant this year because he's Peyton Manning's backup, period! Would it be nice to see the Big O do well? Of course it would. It would make all of us feel a hell of a lot better about the future of the Broncos once Manning hangs them up, but that doesn't mean that it is of any more importance to us winning a ring this year than even the most invisible of starters.
The starting gunner or lineman on punt blocking units is more conducive to success THIS YEAR than anything Brock does, or anything that any up and comer does. This series is also not a technical analysis about something the way that our training camp preview is. Our other excellent writers are doing amazing jobs breaking down position groups and battles, and showcasing players. This isn't a series that competes with those, this series is more of a complementary series as I'm not going to break down Knowshon's fumble rate vs burst around the edge or anything like that. That is what the other wonderful writers are currently doing, and they are probably doing a better job than I could do with it.
So if you guys fail to see Brock listed in this series, don't light the torches and sharpen the pitchforks. It isn't that I don't care or want to see Brock progress, because I do. I just recognize (as I hope you now do) that how he progresses has zero importance to this team's quest at winning a championship. When I think that Manning will retire, you can bet your ass that how Brock does will occupy slots #1-#5 because that's how important the QB position is. But today, as it stands, backups will probably not make a single appearance on this list because I'm not in the "predicting injury" business, so I'm going to assume that backups will stay just that... backups!
Now, on to the show...
#2 Run Montee, Run!!! Nothing would please me more than to see Montee Ball take the starting Running Back position and put such a strangle hold on it that it chokes the life out of all the other running backs on our team. I want Ball to be so damn dominant that Knowshon, Hillman, and the other Ball cry themselves to sleep at night because they know that they'll never sniff more than 5 carries per game. Most of all, I want Montee Ball to be for Peyton Manning what Terrell Davis was to John Elway; The difference maker!
Montee Ball has lived his entire life idolizing Terrell Davis. He didn't have Emmitt Smith as his favorite back, he didn't have Barry Sanders as his favorite back, no, he had Terrell freaking Davis as his favorite running back! The Running Back position is in my opinion, the hottest camp battle we have going. I don't want to take anything away from the safety battle, but man, we saw how badly we missed a true #1 running back when Moreno left last year's playoff debacle.
Do you know what separated John Elway's success from Dan Marino's? A true franchise running back, that's what! How many championships did Elway win without that true dominant back? Exactly as many as Marino did with the likes of Lamar Smith. A true franchise running back can be the difference in being a bridesmaid and being the bride. While our defense is stellar, make no mistake, our offense will be the tone setter.
What I'm expecting is that the Manning led offense will be about 70/30 Pass/Run up until midway through the 3rd quarter. After that, I expect that the Broncos will be ahead enough in the game that they completely flip those ratios and turn to a 70/30 Run/Pass ratio. This is where Ball will shine, much like TD did. "Grab a lead, and then ride your stallion to victory!" That will once again be the Broncos' mantra. Think about how differently our playoff game would have been last year if we still had Moreno in the game come the 4th quarter! Our offense last year needed a true #1, and with our improvements on offense this year, it will rely even more heavily on a true #1 to "drive the victory home" so to speak.
The camp battle will truthfully be between Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno. John Elway has already stated that Hillman is a change of pace back, which really means "he'll see the field occasionally, but no change of pace back in the NFL has ever been a true starter if the team had other options." So Hillman is out when we talk about starting RBs.
I've been critical over the years about Moreno. A broken cell phone and a dent in my wall will forever serve as proof to my displeasure when Knowshon's name was announced as our draft pick. But like most of us, I entered the offseason that year and every year with optimism and hope that I would be proven wrong... it never happened, until last year. Last season, we saw a different Knowshon. We saw a guy be more patient with his reads, and really develop into a good running back. But will that be enough?
Montee Ball entered the draft as my #1 "want" for the Broncos. I stated dozens of times that I didn't care who the Broncos drafted as long as Ball was one of them. Well, now we have him, and I'm expecting Terrell Davis type of production out of him. TD started 14 games his rookie season, which I think is about right for Ball. TD averaged 4.7 yards per carry while amassing 1,117 yards. I think those totals are realistic for Ball, even in this should-be pass happy offense. I'm willing to give Moreno the first 2 starts of the season as they break Ball in, even though I honestly think the Broncos would be better served by starting Ball week 1 and giving Ball every rep that the starters see in the pre-season.
Does Montee Ball have too many miles on his body? HELL NO! He's 22 years old! There is no such thing as too many miles on your legs when you're only 22 years old! Does anyone with half a brain actually think that a few extra carries per game in college are any different than a few extra reps in practice? Would anyone say anything if Ball had 10 more practice reps each practice (where he's running and getting hit/tackled) and 10 less carries per game? If that happened, he'd have the same exact wear and tear on his body, but all the talking heads wouldn't say a damn peep about "mileage."
This offseason, the Broncos once again hired Offensive Line Guru, Alex Gibbs. Why in the world would they hire Gibbs this year if they didn't
want expect Ball to be the next Terrell Davis? Ball has TD's running style. He is a bit quicker than TD was, and he has the same vision/stability/balance as TD. The Alex Gibbs blocking and running system fits Ball to a "T" just as it fit TD to a "T". The Alex Gibbs hire screams "we expect Ball to be the next TD!" Not only that, but the entire Offensive Line as a whole will get a nastier edge to them. Gibbs is legendary for his refusal to accept anything less than perfection. I look for Ball to be the primary benefactor from the Gibbs hire.
Also, don't get me started on the "he was only good because of his offensive line in college" garbage. Even if that were true (and naturally it partially is because they did block for him), the Broncos' offensive line is even better than Wisconsin's, so using that logic, Ball should be even better. Sure, the defenses he faces will be better, but then again, so is the talent around him on offense. I deem this a wash, thus, a moot point. I expect nothing less than 120 yards his very first start. I predict that if Ball starts week 1 and is the primary back the entire game, he'll have 120+ yards and a minimum of 2 TDs. He is just that good.
With all that said, I want to see Montee Ball completely dominate from snap #1 of training camp, all the way through snap # who knows what, when he's helping Manning hold up the Lombardi Trophy in February. This running back "competition" is his to lose. John Fox loves vets, so he might stubbornly stick with Moreno for the first few weeks, but after that, watch out, it's Montee Ball time baby!!! I want a 5+ yard per carry average in the pre-season from Ball. I want swing passes taken for TDs from Ball, and I want Manning to call his dad and say "Dad, I know I've had Edge and Addai, but this kid Montee Ball is unlike any back I've ever had!" Montee Ball developing into our true #1 and Franchise Running Back ranks #2 on my important scale this pre-season. GO BALL, and GO BRONCOS!!!