Despite high level of talent across the board, it's apparent that the Broncos' 2013-2014 season will feature Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball. Here are three running backs to watch for the remainder of this preseason.
Ronnie Hillman –A second-year RB out of San Diego State, Hillman was drafted by the Broncos with the 67th pick in 2012. Possessing excellent lateral running abilities and an impressive collegiate resume, Hillman will likely get the start in Week 1. Despite struggles in the regular season in 2012, Hillman seized his opportunity in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game after Knowshon Moreno left the game with an injury. Hillman's 22 carries for 83 yards proved to Bronco fans that the rookie could make an impact despite being undersized.
Look for Ronnie Hillman to take the majority of the early season carries until Montee Ball becomes more familiar with Peyton Manning's offense. In training camp, Hillman continues to demonstrate that he can run between the tackles, making him arguably the most versatile RB on Denver's roster.
Jeremiah Johnson –A fourth-year RB out of Oregon, Johnson entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans in 2009. After an exceptional senior season at Oregon in 2008 – rushing for 1200+ yards – Johnson sustained a season-ending shoulder injury during the Texans training camp. Competing on the Broncos practice squad in both 2010 and 2012, the only regular season action Johnson has seen in the NFL came in 2011, where he was well-suited within Tim Tebow's option-oriented offense.
Johnson is not expected to play in the Broncos' 2nd preseason game due to a knee injury. In Week 2, Jacob Hester and Lance Ball will be shouldering the majority of the 2nd half repetitions as both Knowshon Moreno (knee) and C.J. Anderson (knee) have been held out of practice this week. How much of an effect will Johnson's injury have on his future with the Broncos? Time will tell.
Montee Ball – A rookie RB out of Wisconsin, Ball was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 58th pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Resume includes: all-time scoring leader in the NCAA FBS and 2-time All-America and All-Big 10 selection. For more on Montee Ball's collegiate career see Denver Sports Breakdown.
Although Ball has struggled during training camp, his improvement and dedication are apparent – working after practice with Peyton Manning and others on aspects of his game. Ball's biggest obstacle, which he recognizes, is his pass-blocking. At Wisconsin, a run-heavy offense, Ball was not expected to pass-block as the team rarely passed. Look for Montee Ball to steadily garner more carries as the season progresses. It's clear that Ball is going to make an impact in the NFL during his career, however, this season may not reflect that fact.
Depth Chart Prediction:
1st String: Ronnie Hillman
Goaline/Short Yardage: Montee Ball
3rd Down: Jacob Hester, Knowshon Moreno
Practice Squad/Special Teams: Let the experts guess, but not even John Fox knows.
Denver, more than just a city – The 5280 Ethos.