Last August 17 was a season-changer for Knowshon Moreno. Entering the first week of the 2013 preseason, Moreno was running third-team as a Denver Broncos running back behind Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball.
But during one drive against the Seattle Seahawks, quarterback Peyton Manning attempted a pass that fell incomplete when he was trucked by an onrushing Seattle defender who was not picked up in pass protection by Ball.
Moreno didn't carry the ball at all that game. But he basically outshone Ball by simply not being there when defenders poured through to hit Manning.
Soon after, Moreno was suddenly back in good graces and in need because the Broncos knew Manning couldn't take any more hits from unblocked rushers if they were going to have a good season. Ball out. Moreno in.
The rest is history.
Moreno had the best season of any Broncos back and the best season of his five-year NFL career, rushing for 1,038 yards (4.3 yards per carry average) with 10 touchdowns and 60 receptions for 541 yards and three touchdowns, which also was a career best.
It was Moreno's excellent ability to pass protect that got him back in the Broncos lineup when it seemed the team was ready to go in another direction and it is that ability that made him valuable enough to the Dolphins that they signed him to a one-year deal on Friday.
The Dolphins acquired what seems to be a solid pass protecting third-down back.
Now, Moreno sees himself as more than that (as you will soon read) and he'll have a chance to prove he can be the starter with the Dolphins because the running back competition is likely to be wide open. But if that's the case he'll face challenges he didn't face last year with the Broncos.
The primary challenge for Moreno, indeed, any Dolphins running back, is that they often see loaded tackle boxes. Defenses the last few years, regardless of quarterback, have opted to stop the Miami running game and dare the quarterback to beat them.
So Dolphins running back see 8-man boxes with regularity.
Moreno rarely if ever saw 8-man boxes last year. I studied the cut-ups of three Broncos games last season. Moreno ran against an 8-man box exactly zero times during those games.
None. Not once.
That's because Peyton Manning, seeing a safety down in the box, would slice and dice and turn the opposing secondary into a piece of burnt toast. Very rarely do teams play 8-man boxes against Manning.
Miami's Ryan Tannehill doesn't get that type of respect.
And unless Tannehill makes defenses consistently pay for using 8-man boxes against the Dolphins in the future, Moreno is going to see more loaded tackle boxes than he saw the last couple of season when he played with Manning.
It will be interesting to see how he does.
Moreno talked to South Florida reporters on Friday. This is how the conference call went:
Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey introduction - “I like to say it’s my pleasure and I’m very excited to announce the newest addition to the Miami Dolphins that’s Knowshon Moreno. Knowshon is a very talented back and we’re very excited to add him to our team. He’s a back that is coming off a 1,000 yard rushing season in addition to also having 60 receptions. He’s a three down back that can help our team in a lot of different ways and he’s a tough, passionate football player, the type of mentality that we want to continue to add to our team. We had a had a great visit with Knowshon last week and we’re very, very excited that we were able to get an agreement here and bring him on board and with that I introduce our newest Dolphin Knowshon Moreno.”
What was the biggest thing that attracted him sign with the Dolphins and what he feels he can contribute to the team - “I think the main thing was just getting the opportunity to go down and meet with the coaches and meet with the different people working at the facility and just building a short relationship with those guys and coming in and having a good time. You know when I get out there I’m going to work hard. Do what I have to do to learn the new system and meet the new guys and build relationship and get to work from there.”
What does it takes to be a zone blocking running back - “At running back you want to be able to do it all. Outside zone, inside zone or whatever it is, and just follow the blocks. But in that case I think just going out and make sure I’m doing the right things at practice and just getting better each day.
How many other teams he talked to and if he feels motivated like he has to prove something being on a 1-year deal - “No, I was just concentrated on the Dolphins. I don’t feel pressure to go out because it’s a one-year deal and do anything spectacular. I’m just going to go out there and make sure I’m doing the right thing, like I said earlier, working hard and competing, at the end of the day just going in and competing. I’m not expecting anything. Just go out and work and build those new relationships.”
How much does he feel the experience of getting to Super Bowl as you did last year with Denver will help bring that to a team that has a lot of young players – “I guess it will help. That’s me coming in, just working hard and showing that leadership, the things I do on the field and off the field. That was a special time, you know, last year but I’m trying to move on to something new and going to work and building relationships like I said earlier.”
If he feels like running backs are undervalued and that veterans are getting pinched in the situation – “I don’t know. I know you are going to need running backs in your game so that, like it was said earlier, pass protect and be an outlet for the quarterback and run the ball. And to run the ball you have to versatile especially in this league."
Are you competing for a job or are you the starter – “Definitely competing, especially being a part of a team where anyone can be a starter and I think the same thing at the Dolphins. We are all going to go in and compete and the best man will win and get the job done. We will learn from each other, have fun with each other and at the same time go out there and compete and do what we have to do to help this team.”
What sort of adjustment do you think that means for you going from the veteran in Peyton Manning to a third year starter in Ryan Tannehill who is still learning and developing – “Every quarterback was in their third year at one time. I am going to come in and do what I have to do and learn from him. He has been in the system and do what I have to do to make sure that I am doing the right things.”
What has he learned from the first five years in the NFL – “A lot of things, a lot of things. Things about the game, about the business and things like that and at the end of the day just learning each year growing as a person, as a man and as a football player.”
Does this have the capability to be a real high profile, high powered offense – “It is going to be whatever we put in this offseason. Going in the guys doing the smart things to work and coming in and doing the right things that we have to do. I think every team in the NFL is going in the same way, going in saying that they can be good and at the end of the day it is going to down to the hard work that we all put in.”
What went so right last year and made it all click – “Just doing the good things throughout the off-season and getting in and make sure that I am doing the right things to my body, doing the extra things after practice and before. Just to make sure that I am not going to stop those things.”
If he had talked to Bill Lazor, the offensive coordinator and what he told him about the offense and what they had planned for him – “Mostly when we met, it was just bonding with each other and getting to know each other like I said earlier. (We) did not talk too much about football, just getting to know each other in that short period of time and just chatting.”
If he is disappointed that he is not going to have the opportunity to return to the Broncos – “It is what it is, like you said, it’s a business. I am just every excited to be apart another team with a great group of guys, coaches all coming in and building for a certain goal and that goal is to work hard and win. So I am just excited for the opportunity.”
The feeling meeting with Coach Philbin and what type of coach he is going to be compared to (John Fox) who you played under in Denver – “You know what, they are both family guys. (They are) both generous, genuine guys, player kind of guys. Just good people. You really want to be surrounded by good people and it’s no different with the Dolphins.”