With Montee Ball out for at least a couple of weeks recovering from an appendectomy, backup Ronnie Hillman will take over as the team’s top tailback.
Hillman was listed as the 2nd team running back on the team’s first official depth chart that was released Sunday evening, and has worked in with the first team offense in recent days at Broncos camp. It will be no surprise to see Hillman trot out with Peyton Manning and the rest of the first unit as the Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night.
This is the second consecutive year that Hillman will open the pre-season as the Broncos’ starting running back, but the circumstances couldn’t be different. Last year, Hillman was handed the starting job going into camp and was eventually overtaken on the depth chart at some point or another by all of Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball, and undrafted free agent C.J. Anderson.
Hillman’s fumble in the late stages of the Broncos’ prime-time matchup against the Colts last year cost him essentially his job the rest of the season, and he barely even suited up for any more Broncos games.
The experience for Hillman had to be humbling, and running backs coach Eric Studesville has singled him out this offseason as a player that has worked really hard, and is someone to again be excited about.
Hillman was expected to compete for the #2 running back spot with C.J. Anderson at the outset of camp, and to this point, he’s won the job. The Broncos really need Hillman to step his game up this year, especially now that Montee Ball is expected to miss either a majority or all of the pre-season after his procedure.
In Hillman, the Broncos have a speedy presence at running back that otherwise wouldn’t be there. He is the only back that can break away or that has the potential to do so in a footrace on a consistent basis. That fact alone should ensure him a roster spot, but he’s guaranteed to carve out a role for himself now in the wake of Ball’s absence.
This is a huge open door for Hillman, who’s had to work his way out of the coaches doghouse. If he can prove himself worthy in pre-season snaps, this is a win-win situation for the Broncos.