ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Knowshon Moreno's running and pass blocking abilities a year ago gave the Broncos offense a valuable lift down the homestretch.
And on Wednesday, as Moreno returned to the practice field after sitting out the Broncos' preseason game at Seattle with an injury, the fifth-year running back noted that he's again looking to make key contributions as a leader of the Broncos' rushing attack.
"Hopefully I am," Moreno said when asked whether he expects to receive the bulk of the team's carries this season. "That's why we're out here every day working hard, because you do want to be with that No. 1 team, and then if not, find your place on the team somehow."
Moreno was second on the team with 23 rushing yards on six attempts in the Broncos' preseason opener at San Francisco on Aug. 8 – including an 11-yard scamper in the second quarter.
However, he was quick to point out that being able to run the ball effectively is only a small fraction of the equation for a running back's responsibilities in the Broncos offense.
"I mean, running the ball, is instinct. A lot of guys can just do that," Moreno said. "It's the other, little things -- what can you do? Catch the ball out of the backfield, pass protection. I feel like every year, you want to get better at those things. Not only is it a technical thing, it's a mentality and a physical thing."
At the tail-end of last season, Moreno showcased his spectrum of talents in flashes after taking over the team's starting running back duties in late November.
He finished second on the team in rushing in 2012 with 525 yards and four touchdowns – adding 21 receptions for 167 yards – in just eight appearances, six of which were starts.
Moreno also hauled in a second-quarter touchdown from quarterback Peyton Manning in the Broncos' Divisional Round playoff loss to Baltimore, totaling 32 rushing yards and 21 receiving yards before leaving the game with an injury.
But despite being deactivated from the 53-man roster for the majority of the 2012 regular season before his late-November return, Moreno said he never lost hope throughout the process.
"I felt like I was confident the whole season, even though I wasn't out there on Sundays playing," Moreno said. "I was confident out here on the practice field, just getting better, working against the ones, defensive guys. I was confident the whole time."
Now, in the midst of a running back competition with Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball and others, Moreno's attention is still fixed on finding ways to help the Broncos offense get better.
"I just have to go out there and execute and help the whole team," Moreno said.
One way he'll look to accomplish that is by offering his pass-protection abilities, an aspect of Moreno's game that he believes has improved immensely from when he first entered the league.
"Way better," Moreno said. "Every year you want to get better at something, and I feel like for me, that's one thing I want to get better at every year."
And now that he's back on the field, Moreno will relish every single preseason snap as an opportunity.
"It's getting you ready for the season," Moreno said. "It doesn't matter what group it is that's in there, every play that you're in is a resume, maybe for other teams and for your team that you're on. It's a way to get better and get ready for the season."