KLEE: Time for Moreno to seize opportunity with Broncos

By: Paul Klee
November 19, 2012
photo - Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno has not been active in a game since Week 2 against Atlanta. Moreno fumbled in that game.  Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno has not been active in a game since Week 2 against Atlanta. Moreno fumbled in that game. Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

ENGLEWOOD – Here's your chance, Knowshon Moreno.

Here's another opportunity to show Josh McDaniels was doing his NFL draft homework and not simply watching Sportscenter highlights back in 2009.

There might not be many more in Denver.

The injury wasp stung the Broncos on Sunday. The loss of Willis McGahee leaves a scar at running back. The 31-year-old suffered a torn MCL. Denver is hopeful McGahee will return before season’s end, perhaps for a playoff run that is capable of going the distance.

Once upon a Georgia Saturday, Moreno was capable of going the distance.

I saw it on YouTube. It must be true.

Hard to say how often the Broncos will turn to Moreno in McGahee’s absence. He might start Sunday at Kansas City (but probably not). He might get one carry (but probably more).

NFL coaches don't announce these things on Mondays.

Regardless of Moreno’s workload, the former first-round pick has Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday to show coaches he's deserving of another look.

John Fox said Moreno "likely" would be promoted from the inactive list, where he spent the past eight games, and join Lance Ball and Ronnie Hillman as an option in Peyton Manning's backfield.

And there are few things — wins at Carolina? — that Fox loves more than by-committee backfields. Denver’s played 10 games. Three running backs carried the ball in seven of those.

That was with a healthy McGahee, who averages more yards per game (73.1) than Matt Forte, Ray Rice or Trent Richardson. Now the carries will be split like a party sub.

"I've said many, many times, it’s the next man up," Fox said.

The Broncos won’t ask that much of Moreno. With Manning on an MVP-caliber pace, pass protection is a priority. Moreno's good there. Following McGahee's exit from the win against San Diego, Denver struggled in short-yardage situations. Moreno said Monday he’s 215 pounds. He should be good there, or at least as effective as Ball or Hillman.

“It’s been tough,” Moreno said of his stay on the inactive list. "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 special teams or on scout teams I need to do to help the team win.

"You just never know when your chance is going to be," he added. “When your chances do come, you’ve got to make the most of those and go about it the right way."

McGahee’s injury is a tough one for the Broncos. Days like Monday, when Denver got the bad news, teams have an even greater appreciation for three-game division leads.

Injuries happen, and I'm surprised in the violent NFL they don't happen more often. This one can be overcome.

In 2010, Manning’s Colts lost Joseph Addai to a shoulder injury. The running back missed eight games. Indianapolis won the AFC South.

"We've all got to step up and do our parts,” Hillman said. “Anybody could be our option.”

At his best, Moreno was serviceable, and there aren’t many worse tags for a professional athlete. But he didn't ask the Broncos to raise expectations for his career by scooping him up in the first round. And it wasn’t selecting Moreno that put the Broncos in a position of searching for the next man up.

It was another draft blunder, a more recent oversight, that left the Broncos without an obvious running back for the future.

Here’s the quote, courtesy Roger Goodell: "Denver has traded the 31st pick to Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Doug Martin, running back, Boise State."

Martin has 1,000 rushing yards as a rookie. Only Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch have more. He’s busted nine runs of at least 20 yards. Only Peterson has more.

He's fumbled once. The Broncos have more.

You nail some, you whiff some. The undervalued additions of Tony Carter, Chris Harris and Trindon Holliday suggest the Broncos decision-makers have been on their 'A' game.

But the Martin miss was John Daly taking a mighty swing on the tee box and smacking only grass. Selecting a running back early in the draft is walking a tight rope. In the 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 drafts, 10 running backs were selected in the first round.

Only one of them, Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller, currently ranks among the top 20 rushers.

Moreno was the 12th pick in the 2009 draft.

In the NFL, one man’s hardship is another man’s opportunity. The Broncos will see if he runs with it.

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