ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Willis McGahee won’t be the only new running back in Denver’s backfield if Knowshon Moreno can help it.
Noticeably leaner, the Broncos’ top draft pick in 2009 reshaped his body through vigorous offseason workouts and insists he’ll finally be able to flash his true talents in his third NFL season.
Little has gone right for Moreno since former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels made him his top draft pick in 2009. He’s had more significant injuries (three) in the NFL than 100-yard games (two). And he hasn’t been the big-play threat many envisioned or the sure thing in short-yardage many expected.
Knowing this is a make-or-break year, the third-year tailback from Georgia came to camp with a slimmer torso and bulging biceps, less body fat and more strength.
And a different attitude, too.
When the other running backs go in with the second- and third units, Moreno’s not just standing around watching them — he’s behind the scrum doing extra wind sprints.
Moreno, who rushed for 779 yards last season after gaining 947 his rookie year, knows he’s at a career crossroads, so he spent his time during the lockout doing cross-training workouts with a personal trainer in Denver and eating better.
He went from 215 pounds to 200 during the grueling workouts, which strengthened his back and leg muscles, especially his hamstrings, both of which he tore last season, costing him all of training camp and a month of the season.
“I feel really good right now,” Moreno said. “I feel fast. I feel quick.”
What he doesn’t feel, he said, is frustration over being joined in the Broncos’ backfield by McGahee, who signed with Denver on Sunday.
“Anything the coaching staff and organization is doing, they’re doing it for the best of the team,” Moreno said. “It doesn’t matter. We’re all in this for the same goal and that’s to win games and win championships.
“Once anyone comes in, everyone’s still going to compete to get better and make each other better and make the team better in the long run, that’s all that really matters.”
McGahee, who was Ray Rice’s backup in Baltimore the last two seasons, worked with Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville while both were with the Buffalo Bills from 2004-07.
“He’s a talented back with explosive power and long-range speed,” Broncos general manager Brian Xanders said. “He’s had a lot of long runs in recent years. Willis will increase the level of competition at the running back position.”
McGahee weighs in at 235, and new head coach John Fox likes power backs in his offense. Moreno counts himself in that category.
“I’m stronger than I was last year,” he said. “Weight is weight. It doesn’t matter what weight you have, you can still have more strength. So, I definitely feel way stronger than last year and just feel fit.”
Sharing snaps doesn’t necessarily mean Moreno’s workload would be drastically reduced. Fox had a run-heavy offense in Carolina, where DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart both topped 1,000 yards in 2009.
“We have some really good backs on this team and if they get other people, it’s going to make this team better,” Moreno said. “If they ask me to carry the ball 30 times, I’m fine with that. If they ask me to carry half of the times, I’m fine with that.
“I’m going to make the best of every opportunity I have out there.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)