Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) is tackled by San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) during the second half Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
For some reason, people love parades.
They show up the night before to secure their spot along the route, some even stay there just to make sure no one takes it. Don’t mess with people and their parade seats – they may lose a gasket.
But how do parades work when it comes to NFL running backs? To be more specific, the Denver Broncos running backs?
Ronnie Hillman is the unquestioned lead float at this point. Two of the last three games he’s gone over 100 yards rushing. Hillman has shown since he entered the Arizona Cardinals game why the Broncos drafted him out of San Diego State.
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The vision, first-step read, quickness, speed and even power John Elway hoped Hillman would exhibit if given the chance.
What makes this so remarkable is up to the point Hillman got his chance, Denver had no clue what it was doing with the run game despite the fact John Fox, Adam Gase and Peyton Manning saying at every turn how important it was for the offense. The Broncos had to find that “balance.”
Denver not only looked lost, it looked as if it had never practiced that oh so important aspect of the game.
Now the Broncos finally have a running game that should only get better with a back who will continue to improve and gain confidence. As I’ve said since the Cardinals game, that makes this Denver offense better than last season’s.
Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) carries the ball in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Until Hillman screws up or fumbles, he’s the lead float at this point for the Broncos. The Denver running back parade gets even better when it unleashes the power float known as Juwan Thompson. He has proven to be the short yardage back the Broncos haven’t had since Mike Anderson. As with Hillman, Thompson will only get better. His confidence will only grow; especially when you consider he’s an undrafted rookie.
The breather float gets his chance every now and then, mainly when the Broncos have a big lead in CJ Anderson.
What does that mean for the float we all thought when the season started was the highlight of the parade in Montee Ball?
When you have an aspect of your game that works like the Broncos do with Hillman and Thompson, you don’t mess with it. You do not touch what’s worked so well for this team, no matter how you feel about this float you invested so much in and had so much hope for.
Just like life, you let it play out until it doesn’t deliver. If it doesn’t. The whole idea of not losing your starting job due to injury is bunk. Ball should have lost his job before he got injured. If not for that injury, the Broncos running game may still get hit behind the line of scrimmage over 40 percent of the time. It would still look lost. It would still remain inept.
Whether that means the Ball float has been popped on this running back parade – time will tell. At least for this season it has. Ball shouldn’t see the field the rest of the season. If he does, that’s not good news for the Broncos.
Over the next few years, hopefully the two main floats for this parade will remain the combination of Hillman and Thompson with an occasional relief from Anderson.
People love their parades but this one should be about over.
The star float in this parade will soon belong to Thompson.
Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Juwan Thompson (40) scores a rushing touchdown in the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Chargers 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports