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Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) runs the ball during the second half against the St. Louis Rams at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

Ball, Hillman, or Moreno: What the Broncos Should Do About Their Backfield

By Steve Coulter

To run or not to run.

If only the Denver Broncos’ decision to attack opposing defenses was this simple. The answer to this hypothetical, of course, would be to throw it 90% of the time — throw it enough to make the rest of the league beg you to stop it — and eschew running the football entirely.

However, this is the NFL and balance dictates success. Denver can’t force PFM — Peyton, you know what the ‘F’ stands for, Manning — to throw the ball 60 to 70 times a game. His arm would fall off. The franchise would crumble. Fans would riot. You think last week’s temper tantrum over the Joe Flacco poster outside of Mile High was bad? Imagine the Denver fan base reaction to the team returning to where it was at the end of the 2011-2012 season — an extremely mediocre club that squeaked into the playoffs mercifully thanks to six Tim Tebow-led miracles.

It’s like that scene in the Social Network when Mark asks Eduardo, “Do you like being a joke? Do you wanna go back to that?” Thinking…Hell no. That leaves the Broncos with one option — find a running back capable of carrying this team to the promise land. The good news is that the team has invested draft picks in the first (Knowshown Moreno, 2009), second (Montee Ball, 2013) and third (Ronnie Hillman, 2012) rounds over the past five drafts. If they can’t find a back to compliment PFM’s high-octane offense, then they are screwed.

Moreno is the most mature of all the backs and plays like it. He hits the hole without the rookie hesitation that once limited him. Moreover, he doesn’t turn the rock over either. On the flip side, he’s been one of the more inconsistent first round picks in team history.

Ball has the freshest legs and carried a heavy load based on his college numbers. However, he lacks any experience and he’s been dogged for inconsistent pass protection.

That leaves Hillman who claimed the role of starting running back in camp. He’s been plagued by fumbles this preseason though, leaving the Broncos right back at square one without a true starting running back.

Wish Willis McGahee was still around, Denver fans? Not exactly. The remaining group of rushers has talent — clearly, based on where they were selected — and the by-committee approach will work for a few weeks. Eventually though a decision has to be made. The Broncos can’t simply choose not to run. They have to establish the ground game if they want a third Lombardi Trophy to hang in Dove Valley.

My choice is start out with Moreno. The team went an undefeated 6-0 with him after McGahee’s mid-season injury and if it weren’t for a first half injury against Baltimore in the Divisional Round, we could be sitting here talking about how Moreno helped Peyton get his much-desired second championship. If he fails to bring balance to the offense, then move on. Fresh legs will be eagerly waiting.

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Tags: Denver Broncos Knowshon Moreno Montee Ball Running Backs

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