Oct 5, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball (28) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers (25) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Montee Ball needs to remain on the bench.
The Denver Broncos second-year running back can practice all he wants but that’s all he should do. Until Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson and CJ Anderson prove they can’t do the job, Ball should remain inactive and watch.
As I’ve said since Ball went down with his injury against the Arizona Cardinals, Hillman remains the guy for the Broncos until he fumbles the chance away. That hasn’t happened yet. Hillman has saved the running game since he was called on against the Cardinals. He’s one of the few positives from the embarrassment in New England.
Hillman has shown what John Elway and John Fox hoped he would over the last five games. He’s finally shown the first-step cut, speed, quickness, physicality and vision that will only improve as the season goes on. Over those five games, Hillman has 85 carries for 365 yards. His 10 carries for 16 yards against the Patriots is more about how inept the five guys were “blocking” than him.
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What will help Hillman, that offensive line and the offense is playing the Oakland Raiders. Denver needs to get back on track and put a complete game together to make last Sunday more of an anomaly than the standard.
In terms of Ball, he should remain on the sideline in warmup gear as a glorified cheerleader.
The New England game notwithstanding, you don’t mess with something that has worked this well. You don’t change just for the sake of change.
Why should Ball get another chance? Because he was drafted in the second round? Because he works hard? Because he’s a good teammate?
When given the chance, he failed and did so miserably. The only thing that changed from the early part of the season when the run game was beyond awful is who carries the ball. That’s not a slam against Ball but the truth. Amazing how often the two coincide, though.
There’s no doubt that Elway and Fox want to do anything and everything to give Ball the, well, ball. Again, until Hillman fumbles it that cannot and should not happen. How high he was drafted is a non-factor in this decision.
If the Broncos want to make changes, do so to the offensive line. Make a change at center to put the atrocious Manny Ramirez back on the bench where he belongs. The experiment of Ramirez at center needs to end and now.
In terms of Orlando Franklin and the mess at right tackle, Denver maybe stuck unless they move Franklin back to right tackle and play rookie Michael Schofield at left guard. At this point, it can’t get any worse.
The most likely scenario is the unit remains intact. If it can’t dominate the Raiders defensive line, you know there is no hope. The Oakland game should be the final chance for this unit or Fox better make the tough decision to change who plays.
Those are the changes the Broncos should focus on. Who carries the ball is a moot point and nonstarter because of how Hillman has played.
Until that changes, Ball needs to remain on the bench where he belongs.
Nov 2, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) runs the ball for a touchdown against the New England Patriots during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports