Monday, June 17, 2013

Knowshon Moreno Will Start Week 1, if Healthy

pic via Joe Amon, The Denver Post
In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these. - Paul Harvey

John Fox became a head coach in 2002 with the Carolina Panthers. In 2002 the Panthers selected DeShaun Foster with the 34th overall pick, but he got hurt in week 2 of the preseason and was placed on injured reserve.  Unknowns Lamar Smith and Dee Brown carried the load for the remainder of the 2002 season. Foster was set to make his debut in 2003, but the Panthers signed veteran Stephen Davis and ultimately Foster was relegated to a change of pace back

In 2005 the Panthers lost Stephen Davis in Week 14 and then DeShaun Foster in the Divisional round, so Fox went with his 3rd RB Nick Goings into the Conference Championship and lost. After which, Nick Goings was signed to a 3 year extension. Despite the extension, Foster opened as starter the next season.

In 2006 Carolina selected DeAngelo Williams with the 27th overall pick and he got his first start in week 11 for an injured Foster. In 2007 Williams continued to back up DeShaun Foster and didn’t have his first 100 yard game until week 6. He finished the season with 144 carries for 717 yards and was ninth in the NFL in yards per carry at nearly 5.0. In 2008 the Panthers selected Jonathan Stewart 13th overall in the first round.  Stewart got 184 rushes with zero starts his rookie year, but was active for 16 games. In 2009 Stewart made his first career start in Week 13 for an injured DeAngelo Williams. Despite only starting 3 games Stewart amassed 221 carries in 2009 while Williams nearly matched with 216 carries of his own with both going over 1,000 yards.

Again showing that if the incumbent is healthy, he will start.

In 2010 it was a full blown time share and it wasn’t until DeAngelo got hurt again and placed on injured reserve that Stewart made his next start. From then on Stewart and Williams have only been serviceable as fantasy running backs because neither receives the majority of touches, nor has there ever been a real attempt to get either of them “going” as they are frequently subbed in and out on drives.  Should the two ever separate, they both could easily be RB1’s. When John Fox departed the Panthers after his lame duck season, he signed with the Denver Broncos and became their head coach for the 2011 season.

Fox came to a Denver team that had just selected Knowshon Moreno with the 12th overall pick in 2009. But as Fox did with Stephen Davis, he signed Willis McGahee late in the 2011 summer. And just like in Carolina, Moreno got hurt week 1 and McGahee became the primary back until Moreno’s return and the two split carries until Moreno tore his ACL in November of the 2011 season and was placed on IR.

In 2012 the Broncos selected Ronnie Hillman with 67th overall pick in the 3rd round. Moreno returned for the 2012 season and even scored on opening day but after fumbling in game two of the 2012 season Moreno was benched and in Fox’s dog house as an inactive for 8 weeks!

So what happened when McGahee got hurt? Did Ronnie Hillman have the torch passed to him? No, out from the doghouse comes Moreno and he finishes the season strong averaging 22 rushes per game and even earning accolades such as AFC Offensive Player of the week and Fedex Ground Player of the week.  During the final stretch of the 2012 season Moreno set a game/career high in carries at 32. Hillman was strictly a change of pace back.

In 2013 the Broncos selected Montee Ball with 58th overall pick in the second round.  On June 13th Willis McGahee was released due to health concerns and money owed.  Per the John Fox via the Denver Post "(Moreno) He's coming along," coach John Fox said. "We're going to be very cautious. When the doctors give him the full-go go-ahead, he'll be doing everything."

Moreno hasn’t even played a full season with Peyton Manning and I would bet their late season chemistry from last year will carry over into this year as Moreno continues to learn what Peyton likes and doesn’t like in his running back’s ability to make scheme and blitz adjustments.

Peyton and the Bronco's uptempo offense suits Moreno's pass pro play and does not lend to subbing in and out players. Peyton needs the offense so, so that the defense is set - thus allowing Manning to make adjustments within the play clock.

Back in September of last year, prior to Moreno’s early season fumbles and 8 week dog house stint Elway said per Andrew Mason of CBS; “He is really starting to mature as a back," Elway said, "plus he is so invaluable on third down because of his ability not only to run routes out of the backfield on third down, but he also does a tremendous job in protections and knowing the right guy to pick up, and then having the ability to pick him up. That's one of those things that goes unsung with a running back is the ability to pick up a blitz."

Adding Wes Welker in the offseason and the Broncos desire to go up-tempo with 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE and 3 WR’s) Moreno may be needed more than ever.

Wills McGahee is Stephen Davis

Ronnie Hillman is DeShaun Foster

Knowshon Moreno is DeAngelo Williams

Lance Ball is Mike Tolbert

Montee Ball is Jonathan Stewart

And now you know the rest of the story. – Paul Harvey