Broncos roster: RB Montee Ball needs big preseason finale


The battle for roster spots with the Denver Broncos is heating up, and entering the week of the final preseason game, former 2nd round pick Montee Ball might be in danger of losing a spot.

It was clear in the third preseason game just how far Ball has fallen on the depth chart, not seeing carries until the second half of the game after C.J. Anderson, Ronnie Hillman, and Juwan Thompson had already received carries. The announcers of the game were commenting about how surprised they were to not have seen Ball up to that point in the game just before he trotted out onto the field.

As Aric Manthey wrote after the game, it would appear as though Ball is squarely on the roster bubble. That’s why we’re calling this fourth preseason game perhaps the most important of his career with the Broncos so far, even after just two full seasons with the team.

“It is tough because I feel like I really haven’t had the opportunities in these preseason games, but there’s still one more left and I feel like I’ll have some playing time in this one, and I’ll show them what I can do,” Ball told reporters on Monday.

This has to be the most odd feeling for Ball, who was once a bell-cow running back at Wisconsin that could not be stopped. No matter how defenses schemed against him as a member of the Badgers, Ball found the sticks, he found the end zone, and he did it more often than almost anyone in college football.

Heck, he even threw a touchdown pass in his Heisman caliber junior season at Madison. It was that dominant of a year and he was that incredible of a presence in their backfield.

The Broncos saw glimpses of that potential in Ball as a rookie, when he looked far more explosive and confident than he does now, even having had some fumbling issues in his first year. As a second year player, the expectation was that Ball would be the biggest breakout player in Denver, and his insertion into the lineup would provide a major upgrade over Knowshon Moreno, who had rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

If there’s anything the Broncos learned from talented players like Moreno and now Ronnie Hillman, it’s that patience is key at the running back position. Ball can’t complain or make excuses, but like any other player on the roster, he needs time to develop. More importantly, after an injury riddled 2014 season, he needs time to heal up and get himself right physically.

The explosiveness and confidence haven’t seemed all there for Ball yet this preseason, but perhaps a kick in the pants like we saw against the 49ers last Saturday will prompt him to have a big finale. He certainly needs it at this point.

If the Broncos are going to cut Ball, it would be a mistake. He’s certainly a player deserving of a spot on this 53-man roster, and John Elway invested a 2nd round pick in him just two years ago. Sometimes, fair or not, players need to be kept around because of the potential the front office once saw in them, and for Ball, the potential that he has in Gary Kubiak’s offense if he can get right physically.

After this season, I could see Ball being cut if he’s not up to snuff, but for the same reasons Ronnie Hillman is still around, I think Ball will stick after this preseason as well. You’d hate to see the Broncos give up on a talented player too early, even if he’s disappointed thus far.

Next: Broncos still have roster tinkering to do