It was an underwhelming rookie season for Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman, and an even worse second season. Clearly plagued by complacency, Hillman wasn’t focused and it wound up costing him a lot of playing time, even the opportunity to suit up for any playoff games.
The Broncos were done with Hillman last year after a fumble in the late stages of a potential comeback on the road against the Indianapolis Colts. Hillman fumbled near the goal line, and the Broncos’ comeback was all for nothing. From that point on, Hillman was benched, and received very little playing time the rest of the season as a whole.
For many, that fumble is the freshest thing on their minds when Hillman’s name is mentioned, so going into his third offseason with the Broncos, it’s to be expected that he gets a bit of an unfair shake when it comes to reputation. For Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville, Hillman has showed up this offseason in a big way, and has responded to the criticism and benching last season in the best way possible.
“I love what Ronnie has done,” Studesville said. “From when we started this spring in April forward, he has been unbelievable. He’s a completely different guy in the best possible way and I’m just excited about what he’s doing, how he’s approaching it, how he’s making plays on the field. It’s been great. It’s been there the whole time, but we’re finally seeing the maximum side of it. … I didn’t do a good job of bringing it out, but now we are, he’s bringing it out.”
Hillman, per this report from ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, has been firmly in the #2 spot at the running back position this offseason followed by C.J. Anderson and a host of others for the Broncos, and this report from Studesville indicates Hillman might be in line for a bit of a breakout year.
There are sure to be doubters on Hillman, and for good reason. There are a couple of things I will say, however.
1. Hillman is 100% not getting cut unless he absolutely bombs the pre-season.
2. Hillman’s development would be a huge asset for the Broncos’ offense.
What I mean by that second point is that Hillman has the breakaway speed and quickness that no other Bronco running back has. He can cut to the outside in a hurry, and while Montee Ball is a very good athlete, no back on the Broncos’ roster possesses Hillman’s top level speed.
That’s a huge reason I don’t understand why so many want him cut. The Broncos have no other speed backs. With Hillman in the fold and hopefully improved, the Broncos’ offense is that much more dynamic. If he proves incapable of holding onto the ball, we all know John Elway will deal with it accordingly.
For now, this is a good story and one to monitor as the Broncos’ offense already has ridiculous depth at the skill positions. Having a big year from Hillman as the #2 back would be a huge bonus.