Montee Ball Ready to Reclaim Role in Broncos Offense


Sep 14, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball (28) runs the ball during the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been no secret this season — the Denver Broncos haven’t been great running the football. However, since Montee Ball went down with a groin injury against the Arizona Cardinals, something sparked and the offensive line finally started to turn around a bit. Other than a lackluster performance against New England where they had to throw the football more than they would have liked in a blowout loss, the Broncos have actually been pretty good running the ball coming out of the bye week.

That’s not reflected yet in their season grades from Pro Football Focus, in which no Broncos offensive lineman other than new starting center Will Montgomery (who has one start) has a positive grade.

That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

Coupled with horrible blocking and a lack of fresh legs, an unhealthy Montee Ball looked really ugly to start this season. After averaging nearly five yards per carry as a rookie as Knowshon Moreno’s change of pace backup, Ball looked slow, indecisive, and completely not the prospect the Broncos drafted in 2013 to start off this year.

There are reasons for that that are conveniently forgotten, but it’s important not to make too many excuses for guys. Still, Ball suffered an appendicitis in the preseason after a really strong offseason that had coaches and fellow players talking like he was going to be a Pro Bowl caliber player.

After rushing back to the field to be ready for opening day, the speed was too much for Ball, and he couldn’t make the first defender miss while the Broncos’ offensive line struggled to gain cohesiveness in the running game. Through about three-and-a-half games, Ball managed just 172 yards on 55 carries with one touchdown and one lost fumble.

So many fans made Ball the goat after he went down with an injury, the run game struggling, and then Ronnie Hillman came in and immediately provided a spark. It immediately was determined that it was Ball that was the problem, and he definitely deserves a lot of blame for the running game struggles early on.

He came back from his time off having gained weight, he was indecisive in his cuts, and didn’t get upfield fast enough. There weren’t many holes to run through, but he didn’t attack the holes either, and it led to a disastrous start to the season for the 2013 second round pick.

Fans clamoring for Eddie Lacy, LeVeon Bell, and every other running back having crazy early success are failing to have proper patience for Ball, which is mind boggling considering what the team has recently been through with guys like Knowshon Moreno and even Ronnie Hillman, who has been quite good in Ball’s absence.

After Ball went down, it became Hillman’s job to lose and now the flavor of the week is C.J. Anderson, who just might be the Broncos’ best option at this point. That remains to be seen. However, a lighter, quicker, more driven Ball — who had the starting job handed to him this offseason — should be in line for a nice bounce back. In fact, I think Ball is going to reclaim his role in the offense, and he can play a huge role going forward.

It might not be a 25 carry, 5 reception performance every game, but the Broncos’ stable of backs is really intriguing and I love what we’ve seen already from Juwan Thompson and C.J. Anderson. Now it’s time for the guy the team invested its highest draft pick at the position in to show them why he was worthy of that selection. A touchdown machine at Wisconsin, Ball is a complete running back who has a nice skill set, and if he develops in this Broncos offense, he’s going to be an absolute beast. The problem this year was health and coming back confident after being handed a starting job.

If Ball can overcome his early struggles, the Broncos are going to have a really nice young stable of backs, and he could get back to doing what he has always done best — scoring touchdowns.