Oct 6, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (21) runs with the ball against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Ronnie Hillman has a long way to go to earn back the trust of fans who won’t soon forget his game-changing fumble in a loss against the Indianapolis Colts last season. Hillman’s fumbling issues are well documented, but to be honest, it was mainly the timing of his fumble/s that caused the outrage of Broncos fans.
Hillman is certainly not the only Bronco player to fumble the football over the last few years. In fact, there are a few players who have done it way more than he has. Still, the reputation Hillman currently has doesn’t exactly ensure the fans in terms of what he’ll bring to the table this season. Some even feel like he might be on the outside looking in for a roster spot with this Denver Broncos team.
I happen to think otherwise. Hillman was drafted in 2012 in the third round with a pick the Broncos traded up to get. John Elway had clearly targeted Hillman as a guy he really liked and even though the team also drafted Montee Ball last year, Hillman still figures to have a role in the offense this year unless he absolutely can’t put anything together in the pre-season.
Having a strong camp so far, Hillman showed off some versatility in the team practice at Sports Authority Field by returning kickoffs. The Broncos need to find a return specialist or two among the players they currently have after Trindon Holliday was let go and signed with the Giants.
If Hillman can secure a kickoff returner role, it could help boost his confidence. Word out of Denver is that Hillman showed ‘good burst’ returning kicks, and ‘looked explosive’ in his work in that area.
Being that he’s a recent third round pick, I’m really rooting for Hillman. This is a player with a really interesting skill set as a speed back with capabilities as a receiver if he can put some things together. I realize the fumbling has been an issue, but keep in mind that if Hillman had used every year of eligibility he had at San Diego State, he would only be a rookie this season.
The Broncos suffered through similar growing pains with Knowshon Moreno, and unfortunately for Moreno, the health of his knee led to him being let go by the Broncos after the best season in his professional career.
Hillman needs to figure out whatever special stuff Moreno was taking last year and at the end of the previous season. When Moreno went down with a knee injury in 2012, he was playing some of the best ball of his career, and that carried over into the 2013 season. Hillman was in the doghouse much of last year, and didn’t really see many significant snaps down the stretch.
This year might be different. If Hillman can get a stranglehold on the #2 running back job as well as the kickoff returner spot, we could see another really valuable weapon in the already overflowing options Denver has at its disposal.