Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of Knowshon Moreno's return to fantasy relevance yet. The Denver Broncos' fourth-year running back surprised me by running quite well against the Kansas City Chiefs. My assessment is based not on his results (20 carries for 85 yards, four receptions for 26 yards) but on what I saw when I watched each of his touches.
But I'm torn. What's more responsible for his performance? His fresh legs and exceedingly good history versus the Chiefs? Or his continued post-surgery progress and maturation as a back?
Moreno may have come a long way
Initially, Moreno was feeling out KC, but once he gained a little confidence from his first series, he was an authoritative ball carrier. He demonstrated delightful diligence on several runs, including a couple that allowed him to break runs of 10 and 17 yards.
The yield is encouraging, because Moreno's patience and precision aren't new. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder is still less than one year removed from Dec. 1 surgery to repair his torn ACL, sustained about two and a half weeks prior. Don't doubt John Fox's remarks about the benefits of Moreno's eight weeks spent as a healthy scratch and work on the scout team in practice. He moved to No. 2 on the depth chart before the season began, but his depressed mobility was evident on the rare occasion he touched the ball early on.
On Sunday, the 2009 12th overall draft choice ran hard, with legs churning and the ball protected. He prepared for punishment and absorbed contact. He held the football high and covered it up when he encountered heavy traffic. He made good, quick decisions and showed resilience on Denver's drive for the field goal that put the game away.
He also made a few mistakes and showed his limitations. Once, Moreno tripped over one of his lineman's feet and killed a shot to at least double the four yards he gained. He missed a couple of opportunities to cut it back and pick up more real estate, once when considerably more was available. He failed to escape any of the penetrators who stuffed one of several plays.
Cut him some slack? It was his first game in two months. It's clear that the Broncos (I went along with them) overrated Moreno's elusiveness at Georgia. He's rarely going to get away when the defense blows up a play. As is so often stated, he lacks an additional gear, the one that'd help him bust a 40-yarder as soon as the seas part.
Moreno has demonstrated the capacity to fit a well-blocked running game, but prior to his knee injury, he hadn't done so consistently. He was uncommitted on many runs, and nagging muscle injuries interfered with his chances.
This past Sunday, he picked up the yards that he was supposed to pick up. He didn't give anything away. And he held on to the football.
Will he continue to do those things? Moreno will never be a threat to take it to the house on any given play, but he is an intelligent runner. Against KC, whose D boasts the athleticism and occasional competence that's missing from the O, the game was never too fast for him.
When we learned that Denver was going to start Moreno yesterday, I thought it might be a ploy or a bit of lunacy because Denver was suddenly overvaluing his pass pro. His statistical results didn't sway me. But after watching him extensively, I'm much less skeptical that Moreno can be the adequate back that the Broncos and fantasy owners need him to be.
Just in time, I guess. His matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be quite telling about the staff's commitment to him as well as his dedication to this newfound capability. If he remains in good graces, he should come away with at least six or seven catches, if not much rushing yardage. The scrumptious Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and (if your league plays through Week 17) Kansas City Chiefs then await.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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