Willis McGahee surprised the football world with the resurrection of his career as a Denver Bronco.
He signed with Denver upon his release by the Baltimore Ravens in July 2011 after a five-year stint filled with great accomplishments, as well as a plethora of injuries. At the time, his role was to be the backup running back to Knowshon Moreno and provide some relief in the backfield.
However, an injury to Moreno in Week 1 of the 2011 season thrust McGahee back into the spotlight and made him the primary back for the Broncos. With the exception of games missed due to injury, McGahee has remained the starter and has rushed for 1,631 yards with seven touchdowns since coming to the Mile High City.
Willis McGahee turned 32 a few days ago. In running back years, that translates to early bird dinners and an AARP membership.
What does the future look like for the Denver Broncos backfield? We don't know for sure what John Elway and the Bronco front office are planning for the running back position moving forward.
The way I see it, they could go in a number of different directions.
Keep It in the Family
While Willis McGahee is 32, he is not ready to put out to pasture yet. Depending on his health and performance for the rest of this season, he could end up playing a less significant role in the Broncos' run game giving way for this year's third-round draft pick Ronnie Hillman to take the reins.
Hillman was drafted as the future back of the franchise, but has been off to a slow start so far in 2012. A hamstring injury during camp in August kept him off the field until the third week of this season.
In order to keep him healthy, the coaching staff has limited Hillman to change-of-pace and third-down back duties since his return. Without getting a chance to see Hillman in an every down situation, it is difficult to determine whether he is the future of the Broncos run attack.
If after the 2012 season Ronnie Hillman is not proving to be the back that Denver needs moving forward and Willis McGahee does in fact show signs of slowing down, then the Broncos may need to look to free agency or potential trade opportunities in the offseason.
The list of free agent running backs available in 2013 has some interesting names on it; guys that have the possibility of improving Denver's run game.
Both Steven Jackson and Shonn Greene are backs that could certainly benefit from a change of system and/or scenery. It would be interesting to see how Jackson would perform with a more solid group of athletes around him in Denver.
Shonn Greene has not performed up to expectations thus far as a New York Jet; however there are certain cases when a new environment can cause a player to flourish. It could be worth a shot for the Broncos, who are currently ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing yards so far this season.
Rashard Mendenhall is only 25 years old and his recovery from ACL surgery is still a work in progress. If he can pull together a decent year and prove that he is fully healed, Mendenhall could be a great score for the Broncos backfield.
The running back situation in Carolina is certainly one to watch this offseason. They have two great backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart (who is a free agent in 2013) and do not seem to be utilizing either of them to their full potential. It is difficult to imagine the Panthers paying both of these guys the big bucks next season. One of them could end up in a Bronco uniform..
The future blueprint of the Denver Bronco's backfield is not exactly clear at this point in time. The bulk of the decisions will come as the course of the season plays out.
Right now, Denver's focus should be on improving their run game and propelling themselves to the top half of the league on the ground if they want to secure that playoff run.