Print and Go Back AFC West [Print without images]

Thursday, August 22, 2013
Broncos practice report: Moreno finds niche

By Jeff Legwold

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the Denver Broncos have talked about the running-back job in this preseason, Knowshon Moreno’s name has usually been a late addition to the sentence. After some discussion about Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball, about their work with the starting offense, often it would simply be something on the order of “and Knowshon knows our system.’’

But with what the Broncos' backs do without the ball looming as important in the coming depth-chart decisions as how they run with it, Moreno continues to carve out some potential work in the team’s third-down and longer-yardage looks. So much so that Moreno even took some snaps with the starters in some team drills Thursday.

Why? Because Moreno, who has frustrated more than one die-hard fan in the Rocky Mountain region with his frenetic running style, is still the most consistent back in pass protection.

And as offensive coordinator Adam Gase said this week, the backs’ job in pass protection “is to make sure 18 doesn’t get touched.’’ Peyton Manning -- "18" -- took an enormous hit Saturday in the loss in Seattle when Ball missed a blitz pick-up, the kind of hit that can change a season.

Also, given how much the Broncos would like to run a three-wide look on offense or even to put both tight ends in the pass pattern when they do go to a two-tight end look, their backs have to vigilant when it comes to picking up extra rushers. And the one who is most consistent will get to play in those situations, no matter how often he gets to carry the ball on early downs. That has increased the potential playing time for Moreno and perhaps Jacob Hester as well. Hester has also been used a fullback.

“It’s important,’’ Moreno said. “I think it’s something you get better at as you go. Probably the biggest difference from college to here is doing that, especially against the kind of pass rushers you see.’’

In other news: