The Denver Broncos had concerns about Willis McGahee's health when the running back was released last week, according to Paul Klee of the Sacramento Bee. McGahee has a history of knee injuries, including a torn MCL that ended his 2012 season in November. McGahee received limited carries during minicamp after sitting out OTAs.
Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman are expected to compete for McGahee's starting role in the offensive backfield. The most hype seems to be surrounding Ball, who was selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft after finishing his college career at Wisconsin as the NCAA's all-time career touchdown leader. Ball has impressed observers and, perhaps most importantly, Peyton Manning, with his work ethic.
That said, Klee believes Hillman will be the starter to begin the year due in part to a valiant effort in the Broncos' playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Here is how Klee sees the running back battle playing out:
One observer's too-early prediction: Hillman is the starter for the season opener. Ball assumes the position by the end of September. We see plenty of Moreno, in part because he's their most reliable pass-blocker and protecting Manning is priority No. 1.
As for McGahee, if he is having knee problems yet again he could have trouble piquing interest on the free agent market. McGahee is on the down slope of his career at 31 years old, though he proved the last two years in Denver that, when healthy, he can still be a punishing and productive running back capable of handling a heavy load.