Most Denver fans are fed up with the run game. A lot of them are calling for Montee to get benched. In fact, message boards are starting to bash him like he plays for the San Diego Chargers. Let’s relax for a second and take a quick breath.
Do I think Montee Ball is playing well? No.
Do I think Montee Ball should remain the workhorse if he continues to play this way? No.
Do I think he can turn it around? I would not answer with a definitive yes.
You’re probably sensing a but… here it is. Montee Ball is young. He is unproven. And more than anything, he was given the starting role without actually earning it. Let’s venture back. Last year Monte Ball did not look good early on. Through the first half of the season, he was incredibly indecisive running the football. On almost nearly every play, he hesitated, hopped around, and got swarmed by defenders (look familiar?)… on most plays, I was hoping for a couple of yards. That was followed by a request to my television that John Fox and Adam Gase put Moreno back in. Now, let’s skip ahead. In the second half of the season, Ball showed glaring improvement. He hit holes hard and quick and with little hesitation. Not to an elite level, but by comparison, his YPC skyrocketed. I had the privilege to visit Kansas City last December when the Broncos came back in the second half to beat the Chiefs. Monte Ball ran for over 100 yards on 13 carries and had a huge 45 yard run in the 3rd quarter that led to Denver’s first lead of the game. Knowshon Moreno ran the ball for only 18 yards on 15 carries that day.
So what was the difference? Where did that running back that gave us faith go?
It goes back to the unearned and apparently uncontested starting job. What makes a person get better? Competition. What makes a person fail to improve? Complacency. Ball was gifted the starting gig. Moreno was forgotten immediately the spotlight was shone brightly on the young stud from Wisconsin.
The problem is this: No fear. No concept of competition at the position. Ball is likely feeling the heat of his poor performances. But he has been the starter through the preseason and through the first three weeks of the regular eason. Why wouldn’t he continue to play the same, expecting the same results. As long as he doesn’t completely blow it, he’ll stay the starter, right? It’s time to open up a can of worms Bronco coaching staff. At least a small one. The team needs to let out the idea of a position battle to the world. Multiple running backs need to get first team reps in practice, and the carries need to be more greatly distributed. Even Juwan Thompson needs to see the field. All of the RBs on the active roster have shown ability to play ball. CJ Anderson has looked explosive and decisive on the filed in his minimal opportunities this season. Ronnie Hillman has the speed to give the Broncos a rare look in the backfield if they choose to use him in that way. And every Denver fan (including myself) is excited about the possibility of Juwan Thompson getting an opportunity. Competition is a hotbed for both improvement and a revelation of the greatest talent. Not only would we likely see if Montee Ball is still worthy of starting, but every running back on the roster will be working harder than ever to show they deserve it.
It may not be time to give up on Montee Ball. But it’s time to entertain the conversation. He has good ball skills. He revealed it last season, and he showed it off continuously in college. But there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned roster battle to show a player’s true heart. Let’s get one started in Denver.