Broncos Running Attack Gets Younger


Ronnie Hillman (21) runs with football against the Baltimore Ravens in double overtime of the AFC divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field. The Ravens defeated the Broncos in double overtime 38-35. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL makes teams put out a depth chart before their week one preseason game. As “outsiders,” it’s great for us because we get a sense of how the coaching staff views their players. However, we’re cautioned not too read too much into the chart since it changes so quickly.

In any case, the Broncos list Ronnie Hillman, rookie Montee Ball, and Knowshon Moreno as their first, second, and third string running backs, respectively. That’s followed up by Jacob Hester, Jeremiah Johnson, C.J. Anderson, and Lance Ball.

Running back is one of the most intriguing battles of camp this year.

Montee Ball (38) during rookie minicamp at the Broncos training facility. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

“It’s going to be based on performance,” John Fox said after practice Monday. “We’ve got four preseason games to take a look at them. We have a depth chart. We released the depth chart only because the league makes us, but as it sorts out they’ll define where they fit on that depth chart.”

That’s a very head coach-like answer when probed for more on the running back position.

Both Hillman and Ball got reps with the first team offense in Saturday’s scrimmage. Hillman had a 12-yard carry while Ball had a 9-yard carry. While both men can clearly run, the Broncos have to be thinking about the position more in term of pass protection thanks to who’s under center.

“You’ve got Peyton [Manning] back there, a potential Hall-of-Famer, so you’ve got to be able to protect him,” Hillman said. “If you’re able to protect him, then you’re able to be on the field.”

When asked how much they think they’ll play in Thursday night’s preseason opener, Ball says that he has the mindset that he’s going to play all four quarters.

“That’s the best way to do it—go in thinking I’m going to play the whole game.”

Hillman’s plan is just to improve every day in camp.

“That’s the goal and that’s the plan, get better every day so that when the lights do come on, you’re 100 percent and you have no doubts. You’re playing fast.”

The Broncos were middle of the pack in rushing last season with 114.5 yards per game.  Now with some younger legs in there and another year with their on-the-field play caller, the Broncos look to improve upon that.

Terrell Davis visited the team on Friday. If the past caught up with the present and future at all, this team could easily be a top-10 rushing team in 2013.

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