Denver Broncos: Ditching Knowshon Moreno for Montee Ball a Huge Risk

Travis WakemanCorrespondent IIMarch 27, 2014

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 19:   Montee Ball #28 of the Denver Broncos breaks a tackle against Chris Jones #94 of the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 2014 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Apparently, the 559 yards Montee Ball rushed for as a rookie were all the Broncos needed to see to anoint him as the running back of the future.

With that decision being made, it does leave the door open for many questions.

Will he be able to stand in and pick up blitzing defenders on a consistent basis, or will Peyton Manning take an unnecessary shot or two?

Last season, he lost three fumbles. Will his ball security be better in his second year?

These are important questions that Ball will have to answer in 2014, especially since the Broncos don't have a proven running back behind him.

Last season, Knowshon Moreno ran for 1,038 yards and caught 60 passes for the Broncos while easily being the best blocking running back on the roster.

In addition, he became the first player in Denver history to have 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season.

He became a free agent after the season, but it became clear pretty quickly that no team was going to offer him a long-term deal.

Simply put, the Broncos think Montee Ball can be better than Moreno. We'll see.

— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) March 27, 2014

On Tuesday, Jeff Legwold of reported that John Elway and the Broncos' organization were keeping the idea of bringing Moreno back into the fold—but only as a backup.

Instead, Moreno opted to sign a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

So Denver now turns to Ball, a player who didn't seem nearly as effective as Moreno did in the system they ran last year. The same system they'll run this coming season.

So what is it about Ball that Denver is sold on?

Yes, they used a high draft choice on him, but Moreno was a first-round pick himself. Ball put up impressive numbers in college, but that doesn't always translate to the NFL.

Add in the fact that they could have brought Moreno back at a low rate and didn't and this situation becomes somewhat frustrating.

The Broncos won't want Ball to shoulder the entire load, so someone like C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman will have to step up. Hillman will have an uphill climb to regain the trust of the coaching staff after his poor 2013 season.

Anderson didn't get much work in the regular season last year, but he showed promise in preseason action against San Francisco. Perhaps the Broncos are just as happy to have a player like him in a backup role as they are having Ball as their starter.

There's also the possibility that the Broncos add competition at the position before training camp.

I know the #Broncos are going all-in on Montee Ball, but I gotta think they hedge that bet at some point.

— Christopher Hansen (@ChrisHansenNFL) March 27, 2014

The Broncos threw the ball on 68 percent of their offensive snaps last season, so they just need a running back that can help move the chains. Ball can do that. Catching the ball out of the backfield and keeping Manning upright are the keys to playing the position in Denver.

Moreno, though, excelled in those areas last season.

Sure, if he's getting the majority of the snaps, Ball can put up the kind of numbers Moreno did last year. But Moreno deserved much more from the team after overcoming all his injuries and having a career year on top of being a perfect fit for the offense.

This will likely lead to some head scratching from Denver fans. Unless, of course, Ball is going to play like LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.

2014 will truly be Ball's time to shine. His play will be key to the success of the team. Without a player like Moreno on the roster, he has no choice but to exceed expectations.