COMMENTARY| It is now or never for Knowshon Moreno.
Once the 12th overall pick in the NFL draft, the 5'11" Georgia Bulldog-product has become a bust for Denver Broncos fans everywhere, a bad memory left over from the Josh McDaniels' disaster. But, after Willis McGahee tore his medial collateral ligament in his right knee against the Chargers, Moreno has his chance at redemption.
The former second-team All-American in college, Moreno hasn't touched the football since an uninspired two yards on three carries performance in a week two loss to the Falcons; he's only contributed 15 yards and one score on the season. Since then the door has been shut for Moreno in Denver.
That is until now. The door might not be wide open, but at least a window is cracked, and if he can find his form from his days Between the Hedges, he might just save the season--and his career.
With McGahee done for six to eight weeks, the Broncos have a huge hole to fill. McGahee had been the pace-setter for the ground game the last two seasons, rushing for 731 yards on 167 carries and four touchdowns this year.
Rookie Ronnie Hillman has started to see some action, and will likely have to carry a heavier load in McGahee's absence, but the young San Diego State-product stands just 5'9" and probably can't withstand the banging and bashing of an every down back. At 215 pounds, Lance Ball will probably serve as the yin to Hillman's yang, but Ball has never produced more than 402 yards in an NFL season and will be featured more as a pass protector on third downs.
That brings us back to Moreno, the last running back on the roster, and an oft-criticized former first rounder. It is not to say Moreno hasn't experience some success in the NFL. In his rookie year, 2009, Moreno turned 247 carries into 947 yards and seven touchdowns. Since then, he has been anything but consistent.
Unfortunately for Moreno, the one consistent aspect of his game is his penchant to fumble the football away. In his rookie year, he fumbled four times, losing all four. He lost three more in his 2010 campaign. In just 15 carries in 2012, Moreno fumbled one away in a Monday Night Football loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Regardless, Moreno is, most likely, going to get one last shot in the orange and blue backfield. This time he needs to grab the opportunity and run with it--and hang on to it.
In four seasons, Moreno has managed a respectable 4.1 yards per carry and has been effective catching the ball out of the backfield, something that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning can fall in love with. Manning is efficient with the football, and has been known to dump the ball off to a back slipping out of the backfield.
Moreno, also, no longer has to worry about being the featured weapon; John Elway took care of that when he inked Manning. For the first time since Elway, the Broncos passing attack has been scary good. Demaryius Thomas (57 catches, 933 yards and 5 TDs) and Eric Decker (50 catches, 621 yards and 8 TDs) have proved to be young, effective weapons for Manning, and Brandon Stokley continues to be Mr. Reliable, hauling in 32 passes for 387 yards and five scores.
So the pressure is off. With the way Manning has been firing it lately, Moreno, and whoever else is in the backfield, should see favorable matchups in the box.
The schedule is also favorable for a breakout performance. The Broncos travel to Kansas City on Nov. 25 to face the Chiefs, the fourth worst run defense in the league, surrendering 150 yards per game. After that they face Tampa Bay (ninth worst), Oakland sitting at 3-7, a Ray Lewis-less Baltimore, a 2-8 Cleveland team and finish the regular season at home against the Chiefs.
The stars are aligning for a second chance for Knowshon Moreno. Will he take it? Will he hang on to it? With the playoffs looming, he will seize the opportunity now, or the Broncos will go out and find somebody that will.
Cody is a life-long Denver Broncos fan living in the Colorado area. He has stayed loyal to orange and blue from Elway to Plummer, Cutler through Tebow and now, finally, Peyton Manning.