"I thought Montee had a great year," Manning said. "I thought he learned a lot in his first year. In my past, I've seen a lot of development in guys from their first year to their second year. There is no question with the loss of Knowshon — 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. 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. He didn't have a full one last year because of being a rookie, so I look forward to getting even closer with him as far as being on the same page."
I'd like to extend my best wishes to Knowshon Moreno on reportedly agreeing to terms with the Dolphins on a one-year deal. But it's mainly because a situation that could have been complicated is now pretty crystal clear:
In an upcoming story here on CBSSports.com I wrote about Ball and what was good and bad about his game. While I don't think he's an exceptional, rare running back talent, the fact is that he's a very good back with the most golden of opportunities in the NFL: working alongside Peyton Manning.
Moreno's 2013 season is the perfect example: Like Ball, he's a good running back but no one will confuse him for Walter Payton. But because he worked in an offense with one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a passing game that featured so many dangerous threats, he overachieved. Ball is now in line for the exact same thing.
Ball is now in my Top 12 among running backs and figures to be a Top 20 pick (if not Top 15 pick) in drafts this summer.
With Knowshon Moreno headed to the Dolphins,
Ball will run against nickel and dime defenses designed to contain Peyton Manning and the passing game. Broncos coach John Fox recently called Ball "a tremendous young player" who improved a lot as his rookie year progressed.
To lock up his starting spot, Ball will have to beat out C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman and possibly a rookie.
"He's a tremendous young player," Fox said. "He improved a lot — we needed him to a year ago. I thought he turned into a pro. He understands how to prepare. Sometimes that may take a while. It didn't take him as long. We're looking for him to make good leaps."
After losing a critical fumble Week 12 at the Patriots,
"He realized how critical every time you touch the ball is in the NFL," running backs coach Eric Studesville told the team's website. "Not that it wasn't important before that, but I think sometimes maybe, it's a little bit of an eye-opener."
Ball is preparing to take over for Knowshon Moreno as Denver's lead back.
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