Tony Avelar/Associated Press
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase recently reiterated that Montee Ball is the lead back for the Broncos. Ball greatly improved as his rookie season went on, and he should carry that momentum over to this season. He could be a more effective runner for the Broncos than last year’s starter, Knowshon Moreno, was.
Gase had praise when reflecting on Ball’s ability.
“We drafted him to be a guy that was going to be a big contributor for us. We’re looking for a guy that can start those games out, be consistent all year, make sure that he’s great in pass protection, great in route concepts, which he’s shown us that he has the ability to do. We just need to make sure that he continues that through this season.”
Behind Ball, the competition on the running back depth chart is wide open according to Gase.
“We’re looking for a guy that can compete with those three guys—four guys, really—that are already here. So it’s going to be how quick can we get caught up on the offense, then who can go out there and perform at the level we need them to perform? Right now, it’s an open competition for that spot—all those spots. So we need to see who is going to be the guy to step up.”
Second-year pro C.J. Anderson could be the front-runner to win the primary backup position behind Ball. He’s the team’s only true power back, but Anderson also has a good initial burst when carrying the rock. Over the second half of the 2013 season, Anderson was active more times than 2012 third-round pick Ronnie Hillman.
This year could be a make-or-break season for Hillman. Gase expressed concern when talking about Hillman’s prospects this season.
“We’ve talked to him, [Running Backs Coach] Eric [Studesville] and myself, as far as, ‘Hey, this is a new start to the year. Whatever happened in the past, you’ve got to build off it. We’ve just got to start over.’ His goal is to become the best running back he can. I can’t say make-or-break, because I don’t know what that is. He’s just got to come out, he’s got to work his butt off and make sure he puts himself in a great position to contribute this year.”
Hillman is arguably the fastest player on the roster, and that speed would be a fantastic asset for the team in a change-of-pace role. We’ll see if he can focus more on becoming the best pro he can be and hold onto the rock in 2014. Fumbling problems and maturity issues have been Hillman’s biggest downfall to this point in his pro career.
Undrafted rookies like Kapri Bibbs (Colorado State), Brennan Clay (Oklahoma) and Juwan Thompson (Duke) will also be in the mix. So will Jerodis Williams, a second-year player who was with the Minnesota Vikings last year in training camp.
Ball is a durable player, but the Broncos will want to give him a breather from time to time. Who gives him a break this year is unknown right now.