RB Montee Ball - Free Agent
|5-11, 214||Born: 12-5-1990||College: Wisconsin||Drafted: Round 2, pick 2013|
2014 Week 1 vs IND (23 / 67 / 1 rush, 2 / 2 / 16 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball's game against the Indianapolis Colts is the latest example of why performances cannot be judged by statistics alone. While Ball averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry, he was contacted or influenced by defenders at or behind the line of scrimmage on 19 of his 23 carries. While Ball didn't have an exceptional outing and he did not stand out as especially physically dominant, he did a good job of consistently getting what was blocked and then a couple yards more. Most importantly, Ball was the clear workhorse in Denver's backfield; after no Broncos RB received more than 70% of the offensive snaps in any game last season, Ball was on the field for 90% of Denver's offensive snaps against the Colts. He made a few plays in the passing game, was reliable in pass protection, and topped 20 total carries, a feat only accomplished twice by a Broncos RB last year. Denver's coaches clearly view him as a potential workhorse going forward.
2014 Week 2 vs KC (12 / 60 / 0 rush, 3 / 3 / 29 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball had another long day filled with early contact against the Kansas City Chiefs. While Ball was met at or behind the line of scrimmage on most of his touches, he certainly made the most of the few times when he was able to get past the first wave of defenders with his momentum intact. One of Ball's best plays of the game came on his second reception when he was able to step around the first tackle attempt and turn a short screen into a 16-yard gain. Ball's best play, though, was a draw play on 3rd-and-24; with Kansas City rushing just three defenders, Ball was able to get well into the second level before meeting any defenders, then juked the first two would-be tacklers and dragged the third on his back for five yards, gaining 23 yards and setting up a 4th-and-1, (which Ball converted with his next carry). Aside from his production on the ground and in the air, Ball was reliable in pass protection, holding up well outside of a play where a breakdown in the blocking scheme left Ball one-on-one against a full-speed Tamba Hali. Hali was able to overpower Ball with a bull rush and take down Manning for his lone sack of the game.
2014 Week 3 vs SEA (14 / 38 / 0 rush, 3 / 2 / 6 / 0 rec)
On the opening play of the game for Denver, Montee Ball took the handoff, knifed past two defenders at the line of scrimmage, but showed lackadaisical ball security and saw the football punched out by an opportunistic Earl Thomas. The play wound up being a bad omen for the day he would have. The only thing uglier than Montee Ball's final statistics against the Seattle Seahawks was his protection. For the third straight week, Denver's offensive line allowed multiple defenders past the line of scrimmage on nearly every carry, and Ball often had to make one or even two moves just to avoid a loss. Perhaps most emblematic of his day was a carry where Ball had to sidestep an oncoming defender while receiving the handoff, spun out of an arm tackle immediately thereafter, and was still swallowed up by two more defenders who caught up to him while his momentum was stopped. On another play, Peyton Manning aborted a handoff because a defender was already in the backfield, only for Manning to trip over Ball for a sack. For the most part, Montee Ball's day involved big efforts for small gains. He did have a pair of runs where a missed read cost him yardage. On one, he backed up to get around a defender coming off the edge and turned a potential 1-yard loss into a 4-yard loss. On another, he ran into the pile for no gain when he could have cut to the outside for about four yards. While Ball and the Broncos were wholly overmatched running, Ball showed solid improvement in pass protection from his rookie year. Ball was only beaten once, as his defender managed to get to the inside, but Ball recovered and was able to ride the defender out of the pocket before he could get a hand on Manning.
2014 Week 5 vs ARI (6 / 7 / 0 rush, 3 / 2 / 11 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball's nightmare season continued against the Cardinals, who harassed and harried him all day until an early 3rd-quarter groin injury sidelined Ball for the rest of the day. In addition to his poor day rushing, Montee Ball was the target on one of Peyton Manning's interceptions, though he bore no responsibility for the play. In addition, Peyton had to call a timeout in the first half after it was apparent pre-snap that Ball misunderstood his assignment in pass protection. Ball is scheduled for an MRI on Monday to evaluate the severity of his groin injury, but early reports after the game suggest he will be out "for a while".
2014 Week 11 vs STL (0 / 0 / 0 rush, 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball played only four snaps against the Rams. He aggravated his groin injury on his first target of the day and went back to the locker room. He returned briefly in the second half, but aggravated his injury once again before getting shut down for the day.
2013 Week 1 vs BAL (8 / 24 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball didn't see the field until Denver's fifth offensive series, and didn't receive a touch until after halftime. When Denver shifted into a more run-heavy offense late in the game, though, Ball was the player they called upon. In contrast to Knowshon Moreno, Denver ran the ball 44% of the time when Ball was on the field, and the rookie was only tasked with pass protection three times all game. Ball looked like the strongest of the three RBs when running the ball, despite running out the clock against stacked defenses. On one carry, Ball seemed to run to the wrong side of Peyton Manning, which prompted a brief discussion on the sideline after the series.
2013 Week 2 vs NYG (12 / 16 / 0 rush, 2 / 2 / 27 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball had a prime opportunity entering this game, as Denver's coaching staff seemed determine to give him a 50/50 split with Knowshon Moreno. Unfortunately for Montee, he quite literally dropped the ball- losing a fumble into the end zone resulting in a New York touchback. The coaching staff's confidence in the normally sure-handed ballcarrier appeared undamaged, as Ball played a number of snaps on the next series, but a breakout performance by Knowshon Moreno, combined with a very poor rushing outing from Montee, wound up relegating Ball to the bench for much of the 2nd and 3rd quarters before finally getting some mop-up duty again in the 4th quarter.
2013 Week 3 vs OAK (11 / 61 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
This week, Montee Ball received the fewest snaps of any Denver RB, but Ball continues to see the bulk of the work when Denver switches to run-first mode. Ball had just one carry in the first half, but ten in the second. For the season, Denver runs 49% of the time when Ball is on the field, (vs. 33% for Ronnie Hillman and 28% for Knowshon Moreno), and week three was no exception, as Denver called 11 runs in Ball's 17 snaps. When Denver received the ball on their own 1 yard line in the 4th quarter, they trusted Ball to run it out of the end zone. Ball has seen his work in pass protection double every week, from one snap in week 1 to two snaps in week 2 and up to four snaps in week 4, and Ball has quietly performed fairly well, having yet to allow a pressure. As a runner, Ball was phenomenal, showing better moves and power than he'd demonstrated through two weeks. Ball gained at least 3 yards on each of his first 10 carries, and had the game ended there, Ball would have been one of the brightest spots on the team. Instead, Denver gave Ball an 11th carry, and for the second consecutive week he fumbled and the other team recovered. Ball now has two fumbles on 49 NFL carries after fumbling just twice in 924 carries in college. The next time Denver received the football, it was time for game-ending kneel downs.
2013 Week 4 vs PHI (8 / 24 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
Ball continued his trend of staying on the sidelines while Denver is building a lead, coming in only at the end to salt the game away. Ball had a forgettable day against Philadelphia, not entering the game until Denver had a 36-point lead and immediately seeing the drive stall out after a pair of runs for no yardage, although Ball did come back in on the final drive and was able to get consistent yardage as Denver converted three final first downs to run out the clock.
2013 Week 5 vs DAL (1 / 1 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
The good news for Ball is that he got his first action in the first half of a game in the last several weeks, when Moreno got shaken up on a rushing attempt that gave Denver first and goal from the two. Ball had one shot at the end zone and managed to come up just short, then came back off the field as Moreno was good enough to go again. The bad news is that, with the game close throughout, Ball did not have his usual chances to grind out carries in the fourth quarter as Denver ran out the clock. Ball played just six offensive snaps on the day, spending the rest of his time watching from the sidelines.
2013 Week 6 vs JAX (3 / 15 / 0 rush, 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
For the second consecutive week, Denver played a closer-than-anticipated game and Montee Ball never had a chance to run out the clock in the 4th quarter. Fortunately for Ball, for the first time all season he entered the game before Ronnie Hillman and received some work in the first quarter, producing a pair of solid runs and a horrific drop that was tipped directly to two defenders and should have been intercepted. Still, Ball's snaps clearly remain limited when Denver is in a tight contest, and with Moreno's new-found role at the goal line, Ball's best hope for production remains getting carries at the end of a blowout win.
2013 Week 7 vs IND (0 / 0 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
In a tight game against a tough conference rival, Montee Ball was unable to get on the field, as Denver opted for the experience and reliability of Knowshon Moreno, with Ronnie Hillman when Moreno needed a break.
2013 Week 8 vs WAS (11 / 37 / 1 rush, 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
With Ronnie Hillman inactive, Montee Ball set a season high in snaps played with 30, nearly matching Knowshon Moreno's 38. Ball was handed the ball 11 times in his 30 snaps and might have been Denver's best rusher for the day. While his 3.4 yard-per-carry average doesn't look particularly gaudy, Ball had a very consistently positive day. His 4-yard touchdown run was one for the highlight reels, as Ball displayed the goal-line skills Denver was hoping for when they drafted him. Washington managed to make contact with Ball right at the line of scrimmage, but he went low and showed remarkable leg drive as he managed to push the pile nearly four yards to the end zone.
2013 Week 10 vs SD (5 / 20 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball didn't receive any touches before halftime as Denver went with a very pass-heavy script, but he was on the field in several high-leverage situations, including the first 3rd-down attempt the Broncos faced all day. Ball received five carries in the second half, and he did what he could with them, getting positive gains and twice converting for a new set of downs. Ball was not targeted once in the passing game, although he was sent out into pass patterns 13 times in his 19 snaps, marking one of the few times this season that Denver was more likely to pass than to run with Ball on the field.
2013 Week 11 vs KC (8 / 25 / 2 rush, 4 / 3 / 16 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball continued to see his role in Denver's offense increase, as an RB-heavy game plan meant he got playing time early and often. Ball was brought throughout the course of the game, often in high-leverage situations including 3rd downs and at the goal line, where a pair of carries netting him his second and third rushing touchdowns of his career. Surprisingly, Denver even got Montee Ball involved in the passing game, where Ball received 4 targets after totaling just 5 in his first 9 games combined. Ball also received plenty of opportunities to show off his improved blocking, Denver put him in position to succeed and he managed to hold his own against some quality pass rushers for Kansas City. The lone dark spot on his resume came from a botched handoff on 3rd-and-1 on Denver's side of the field, where Manning appeared to put the ball a little high and Ball appeared to close his arms a little early. After the game, Peyton Manning took responsibility for the fumble, saying "I was just trying to hurry to get the ball in Montee's hands. They were kind of blitzing, and I rushed the handoff and didn't give him a good handoff at all." Regardless of who was to blame, the third fumble Ball has been involved with this year did not shake his coaches' confidence in him, as Ball was back on the field shortly thereafter, scoring his first touchdown of the night just two drives later.
2013 Week 12 vs NE (7 / 40 / 0 rush, 3 / 3 / 17 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball saw plenty of action against New England, as Denver sprinkled him in liberally to keep Knowshon Moreno fresh enough to handle the run-heavy game plan. For the first time all season, Ball was getting the majority of Denver's passing down work, instead of seeing the offense skew even more run-heavy when he entered the game. Ball ran hard and had some great runs to move the chains, including a 5-yard gain on 3rd-and-4. For the second consecutive week, Ball actually led all Denver backs in targets and receptions, including a fantastic 31-yard catch-and-run on 3rd and 20 to continue Denver's first sustained offensive drive. Unfortunately, Ball's next reception came on Denver's first drive of the second half, and a New England defender managed to jar the ball loose, leading to a lost fumble that keyed the beginning of New England's rally. That was Montee Ball's last offensive play of the game, although he did log some snaps on special teams.
2013 Week 13 vs KC (13 / 117 / 0 rush, 2 / 1 / 4 / 0 rec)
If there was any question about how Denver would use Ball following his lost fumble against the Patriots, they were answered early against Kansas City. Ball was substituted in for Moreno on the second drive and paid immediate dividends with some of the best running of his short career. Ball was quick, decisive, and showed an array of nifty moves in traffic to reliably get extra yards. Ball continued to be involved in the passing game, as well, catching a short pass on 3rd down and powering into the waiting defender to barely move the chains on Denver's first touchdown drive. After a strong series, Denver remained with Moreno until their 5th drive, where Ball came in on 3rd-and-short and converted with ease. Ball received only one more carry as the half expired, but picked up where he left off in the second half. Ball's longest carry of the game came on the first play after Kansas City pinned Denver back at the 5 yard line, as Ball raced 45 yards to set the Broncos up at midfield. On Denver's final drive, they turned to Ball to run out the remainder of the clock, and he rewarded them with a 28 yard gain and a first down that allowed Denver to kneel out the last of the clock and close the lid on Kansas City's comeback bid. Where Moreno struggled to get anything going on the ground, Ball was reliable and consistent, with just 2 of his 13 carries getting stopped for no gain or a loss.
2013 Week 14 vs TEN (15 / 77 / 1 rush, 4 / 3 / 10 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball's playing time has been trending upwards over the past two weeks, and on Sunday Ball set a new career best by playing in 44% of Denver's offensive snaps. Ball has responded with three of his four best rushing totals and three of his four best ypc averages in the last three weeks, setting a new career mark for total carries and total touches against Tennessee. Ball demonstrated against the Titans just why the Broncos spent a second round pick on him; defenses spend most of the game in nickel defense trying to contain Peyton Manning and Denver's arial attack, but Ball is such a determined runner up the middle that any defense trying to bring him down using defensive backs is at a heavy disadvantage. Ball has also shown continued improvement on his route-running abilities, but a bad drop on well-thrown deep pass on 3rd and 3 showed that his hands are still a work in progress. Still, he seems to be finding his stride as a runner as the playoffs approach.
2013 Week 15 vs SD (3 / -1 / 0 rush, 5 / 5 / 49 / 0 rec)
Montee Ball got his usual 35% of Denver's offensive snaps, but with the slow pace, that amounted to just 19 snaps. Ball only got a carry on 3 of those snaps; on his first carry, he was met in the backfield, and in attempting to fight out of it, wound up losing even more yardage, stranding Denver's offense in a bad situation after a 6-yard loss. As terribly as Denver's RBs performed on the ground, they helped make up for it in the air, and Montee Ball finished 2nd on the team in both receptions and receiving yardage.
2013 Week 16 vs HOU (4 / 32 / 0 rush, 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
Denver's pass-heavy game plan left Montee Ball seeing less action than had been typical in recent weeks, seeing the field on just 19 of Denver's 78 offensive snaps (24%). Ball got on the field early, rotating in and out for Moreno as early as the first series, but Denver spent more snaps than usual in an empty backfield set, and Ball spent an unusually high percentage of the snaps he saw staying in to pass protect. On his few carries, Montee Ball continued to show that he is Denver's best pure runner, and he held up well in pass protection, but Ball's one target shows that he's still not an integral part of the passing game when he's on the field.
2013 Week 17 vs OAK (10 / 72 / 0 rush, 3 / 3 / 22 / 0 rec)
As usual, Montee Ball was the first Denver RB off the bench, spelling Knowshon Moreno as early as the first drive. Ball continued to demonstrate that he's the best pure runner on the roster by a pretty significant margin, repeatedly punishing soft fronts and nickel defenses for medium gains. Ball also continued to be involved in the passing game, catching all of his targets. While Denver's starters took the second half off, Ball continued to rotate with Ronnie Hillman through the third quarter, getting some opportunities to pass protect with Brock Osweiler. Ball struggled at time with the inexperienced quarterback behind him, as Osweiler failed to replicate Manning's success in anticipating pressure and beating it with the throw.
2013 Week 19 vs SD (10 / 52 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
As he has been for the second half of the season, Montee Ball was Denver's best rusher against the San Diego Chargers. He rotated in for Knowshon Moreno early and often, with four carries on Denver's first drive of the game. Ball carried the ball five times with 2 or fewer yards to go, and he converted for a first down on four of those carries, with the lone exception a 1-yard gain on 2nd-and-2. That carry and a 1-yard game on 1st-and-goal from the 3 were Ball's only carries that gained fewer than 4 yards, as Ball continually punished the Chargers with strong carries that left Denver ahead of schedule on 2nd and 3rd down.
2013 Week 20 vs NE (12 / 43 / 0 rush, 4 / 3 / 13 / 0 rec)
As he has been for the second half of the season, Montee Ball was the clear option 1B in Denver's rushing attack against New England. Ball was Denver's preferred option in short yardage, receiving three carries on 3rd-and-3 or less. Ball converted two of the three carries for a new set of downs, including a 1-yard gain to set up 1st-and-goal from the 1 and a 5-yard gain on 3rd and 3. On his final third down attempt of the game, Ball was stuffed for no gain on 3rd and 2, but Denver gave him another chance on 4th down and Ball converted, allowing Denver to kneel out the remainder of the clock. Ball was also involved in the screen game, with 4 targets, although he failed to stand out in that regard.
2013 Week 21 vs SEA (6 / 1 / 0 rush, 3 / 2 / 2 / 0 rec)
With the exception of a 3-yard gain on 1st and 10 and a 2-yard gain on 3rd and 1, every one of Ball's 8 touches gained 1 yard or fewer against a devastating Seattle front 7. The 3rd down conversion was the lone strong play of the night for Ball; he received the handoff, got stacked up immediately, but used a powerful second effort to convert for a rare first down for the Broncos. Unfortunately, outside of that one demonstration of short yardage skill (which came immediately after getting stuffed on 2nd-and-1), Ball was a complete non-factor in the Super Bowl.