Making Sense of the Denver Broncos RB Situation
By Matt Petrero
Dec 23 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (21) rushes during the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
As I am sure many of you heard by now, Denver Broncos RB, Willis McGahee is now former Denver Broncos RB, Willis McGahee. On the same day that the Broncos cut him loose, they finalize a contract with 2nd round draft choice (58th overall) from this past April’s NFL Draft, Montee Ball. A few things seem to have contributed to these developments in the Broncos’ backfield. First, that Willis McGahee’s no-show during OTA’s probably didn’t help his cause. Now that is educated speculation on my part and Head Coach John Fox dismissed that as a non-issue in his presser on Thursday. However I have my doubts. Secondly, his knee injury suffered in week 11 of the 2012 season probably scared off Fox and the Broncos’, coupling the injury with the fact that McGahee is going to turn 32 in October. And that is something that the coach alluded on Thursday.
"“He (McGahee) was coming off of a season-ending injury, we hadn’t seen him since the end of the season so it was a pretty much a natural sequence there”, Said Coach Fox."
Lastly it looks as if Denver’s brass is looking toward a youth movement and they appear to have the utmost confidence in the remaining depth at RB, mainly 2nd year RB, Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, and 4th year veteran, Knowshon Moreno.
"Fox stated, “it gives us a better opportunity to give some of these young guys more reps…It just came down to us having confidence we have in the three guys I mentioned.”"
Fox also benignly spoke of Jacob Hester, Jeremiah Johnson, and Lance Ball.
"“There are still other guys in the mix that we feel good about as well”, said the coach."
Reports out of Broncos’ minicamp this week are that Hillman has put on an additional 10 lbs or so of muscle and has not lost any of the speed that he exhibited in his rookie year of 2012. That should make him a big-time asset in the backfield in 2013. In addition to better absorbing the punishment of a 16-game NFL schedule as a runner, this should help improve Hillman’s ability to pass protect; something that really hurt the Broncos on January 12th (need I clarify this date which will live in infamy?). His hard work and improved physicality are a good sign of a guy who gets it. However Hillman seems to be keeping the whole running back competition in perspective and that is even more encouraging.
"“It’s always open,” Hillman said. “I was competing with Knowshon, Montee, J.J. (Jeremiah Johnson), so there’s still a lot of competition. Just because (McGahee) is gone you can’t write it in but like I said, I’m just trying to compete and earn more playing time like the rest of them.”"
By all indications this will be a 3-headed running attack to support the Broncos’ dynamic passing game. I believe that the bulk of the touches will be between Moreno, Hillman, and Montee Ball. Meanwhile the other three backs will vie for whatever scraps are left and spots on special teams. However if I was a betting man, I would say that when the dust settles, Ronnie Hillman will be numero uno on the depth chart.
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