Peyton Manning Says Montee Ball is Ready to Step Up

Sayre Bedinger

Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball (28) is pursued by New England Patriots defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich (50) during the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Peyton Manning was doing his usual difference making, getting ready to be the keynote speaker at a Boy Scouts of America event but took some time to answer football questions beforehand.

He made a pretty positive comment regarding second year running back Montee Ball, the Broncos’ second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

“There is no question with the loss of Knowshon [Moreno] — who was just nothing short of awesome for us this past year and was a great teammate — that Montee is going to have more responsibilities, and I think he will answer that challenge,” Manning said. “I think he has the work ethic, I think he has the mental capabilities to handle the workload and I look forward to having a full offseason with him.”

Ball rushed for 559 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, also catching 20 passes. He had some very uncharacteristic fumbling problems early in the season and Knowshon Moreno’s role in the offense grew exponentially because of that as well as Ronnie Hillman’s issues.

With Moreno now off to Miami, the Broncos are really going to need Ball to step up his game. If Manning’s projection is correct, and we have no reason to think it’s not, then Ball is primed for a major role in 2013. The Broncos actually had a much more efficient and effective running game than a lot of people think last year with Ball having rushed for just shy of 600 yards and Knowshon Moreno eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career.

Ball will now be the featured back that he was drafted to be. In his time at Wisconsin, it was clear that Ball was a player that could be counted on to carry a major workload. He proved his worth as not only the featured running back but as a receiver, and he even threw a touchdown pass (to Russell Wilson, if you can believe it).

When the Broncos made this pick a year ago, I was ecstatic. Ball was one of my favorite college football players in his three years as a major producer at Wisconsin, and they were one of the most fun teams to watch the year Russell Wilson transferred there (Ball’s junior season).

I felt like I knew as much about Ball coming into the NFL as I ever have any prospect and I know my opinion doesn’t hold as much weight as Mr. Manning’s, but I am very comfortable with him taking over the lead running back role.