Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) is congratulated for his touchdown by tackle Chris Clark (75) and guard Zane Beadles (68) against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos Sunday Notes: So how good is their running game?

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We all know the Denver Broncos passing attack has a chance to be the greatest of all time, but their running game is a subject of a little bit more debate, and there are convincing arguments on both sides of the coin. Today’s “Notes” piece takes a look at links, news, and analysis on the Denver Broncos on this fine gameday morning.

1. Running game

The Denver Broncos are averaging just four yards per carry, but that stat doesn’t tell you the whole story since rookie Montee Ball is making everyone else look bad by averaging 3.2 yards per carry. But when you look at what Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman have done, you start to see that maybe the Broncos rushing attack is actually really good. In fact, FanSided’s Broncos site Predominantly Orange takes a look at a Deadspin study on Football Outsiders’s DYAR statistic, which states that the Broncos have the best running game in the league. The best.

There are others, though, who believe that the Denver Broncos running game needs to improve, and a writer on Rant Sports went as far to say that the Broncos running game needs to improve in order for this team to even make it to the Super Bowl,

Hogwash, I say. Let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we? Advanced NFL Stats tracks some really nice analytics on the offensive side of the ball, and they have a way of making us look at running backs differently. For instance, is a one-yard run on 3-and-1 more valuable, or is a three-yard run on third-and-five more valuable? Yards per carry doesn’t take down and distance into effect, so it will tell you that the latter run is more valuable. But, of course, most sensible NFL fans would take the first run, because it guarantees a first down and came when the defense was most likely fully expecting a run.

The analytics take that into account, and they rate both Moreno and Hillman highly. Moreno is third in the NFL in Win Probability Added among running backs, and Ronnie Hillman is 13th. On a per play basis, Moreno is 8th in the NFL in Expected Points Added, while Hillman is fourth. Fourth! Success rate % measures how consistent a back is at getting the necessary yardage, and Hillman is second in the league at that with Moreno coming in at 11th.

And hey, they both rate highly in yards per carry, too, as Knowshon Moreno (it’s great to see him finally having success) averages 5.2 yards per carry, and Ronnie Hillman averages 4.8 yards per carry. These two have been consistent, and they have been getting the job done when called upon by the Broncos offense. This running game is a successful running game, and it is much better than a few detractors think; just look at the numbers instead of sticking with the crutch arguments. One important thing to remember is that the prolific Broncos passing game does indeed open things up for the Denver Broncos ground attack, but that shouldn’t detract from the overall effectiveness of Hillman and Moreno to get necessary yards. Plus, Montee Ball is going to get better, as the Denver Post’s Mike Klis stated last month that the expectation has been that the Broncos believe Ball will get things going in the middle of the season.

2. What they say about Manning and Brady, the Patriots and Broncos

I blogged about the New England Patriots for over a year, so I know about all the Patriots-haters and anti-Brady trolls. It comes with the territory. So when noted Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla states that Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are more likable than Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, he isn’t making any ground-breaking statements. Kiszla did, however, say that in reference to the Broncos offense running up the score, which I think is bull. If anyone makes that statement, they are choosing to ignore the fact that the Broncos slammed the breaks on the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth quarter of last week.

3. Fines

Knowshon Moreno and Kevin Vickerson were find $7,875 each due to unnecessary roughness penalties on the Philadelphia Eagles last week. The Moreno fine was just borderline moronic, whereas Vickerson deserved his slap on the wrist.

4. A quick look to next year

Predominantly Orange’s Sayre Bedinger reminds us that the Denver Broncos have an awful lot of players on expiring contracts, and it’s going to be an extremely busy 2014 offseason in Denver. Players they absolutely have to re-sign? Nickel corner Chris Harris Jr., one of either Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or Tony Carter (most likely Carter), and rising SS Duke Ihenacho. Eric Decker is going to be a tough decision for the Broncos to make, but I think they need to keep him as well. While they have enough at WR to let him go if he is too costly, Wes Welker is on a two-year deal and isn’t the youngest player either. I think the Broncos need to do whatever they can to make Decker work. And oh, re-signing Wesley Woodyard and Trindon Holliday would also be great moves.

5. Steven Johnson gets some love

Backup linebacker Steven Johnson was one of the most prolific tacklers in the Big 12 during his time starting for the Kansas Jayhawks, and KU alumns in the NFL are difficult to come by (it’s rare that the Denver Broncos have two of them in Harris and Johnson). He probably should have been taken in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, but Johnson instead went undrafted. However, he was a valuable commodity in undrafted free agency and received a hefty signing bonus from the Broncos. As expected, Johnson has been huge on special teams, and he’s an unsung hero as an excellent player on special teams.

Well, he isn’t unsung anymore after blocking a punt for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles- his childhood team- last week, and here’s an excellent piece and interview with Johnson on the Denver Post.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter for more NFL updates and analysis @SorianoJoe. Be sure to like us on Facebook here and follow our site on Twitter as well.

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Tags: Chris Harris Jr. Denver Broncos Dominique Rodgers Cromartie Duke Ihenacho Eric Decker Kevin Vickerson Knowshon Moreno Montee Ball Peyton Manning Ronnie Hillman Steven Johnson Tony Carter Trindon Holliday Wesley Woodyard

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