Oct 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Juwan Thompson (40) scores a touchdown during the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 41-20. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Broncos’ season has gone according to plan thus far. Their defense is emerging as one of the most dominant in the league and is a clear improvement over last year’s erratic version. The offense is still a fine-tuned machine led by Peyton Manning, no surprise there.
The Broncos may have even cut the best kicker around in Matt Prater, but rookie Brandon McManus appears to be holding his own. The holes on Denver’s roster are steadily closing, and the team’s stock is rising with each passing week.
Yet, a problem has continuously plagued this Super Bowl hopeful squad dating back to February.
Can you guess what it is?
If you said the running game, you get a FREE CAR!
In all seriousness, though, the Broncos production coming out of the backfield has been average, at best.
The overhyped Montee Ball had another paltry day before leaving in the second half with a groin injury. Ball has struggled to get anything going on the ground this season, and Sunday was no different, ending with just seven yards on six carries.
His play can’t be described any better than by our own Ian St. Clair.
"Unlike him, Hillman didn’t hesitate to hit the lane his line opened up. Hillman didn’t question himself. He took his first cut and went. Thompson did the same. For whatever reason, Ball doesn’t and can’t do that. He hesitates just about every time he gets the ball. He doesn’t trust himself or the line."
Ball underwent an MRI yesterday and will be sidelined for roughly two to three weeks.
With Ball out, some combination of Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson will have to work to ignite a poor running attack.
On Sunday, Hillman and Thompson did just that when Ball left the game.
Hillman replaced Ball as the starter, and saw his first significant playing time since fall of last year. He didn’t disappoint, as he carried the rock 15 times for 64 yards, showing off the cat like quickness and speed that made the Broncos draft him so high in 2012. More impressively, Hillman was hitting the open lanes with force, he didn’t hesitate and was able to break off big runs because of it.
As good as Hillman looked, their best option may be the rookie Thompson. He finally got his chance with C.J. Anderson having been deactivated Sunday. Thompson can do a little bit of everything for Denver. He can block capably on passing downs, run it to the outside, inside, you name it, he can do it.
Thompson seized through the Cardinal’s defensive line to record his very first touchdown in the NFL, as well. It was, unfortunately, only the Broncos second of the year on the ground.
Anderson will without a doubt be active for their road trip to New Jersey next Sunday, where they’ll face the reeling 1-4 New York Jets. He certainly has had his moments this season, but really hasn’t been able to break the mold in the stable of running backs. Anderson won’t be deactivated, but look for him to remain as the offenses third option at tailback.
The running game seems as though it’s ready to take off for the Broncos. They may have a tough time with that against teams like the Jets, but they appear to have found a solid combination in Hillman and Thompson.
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