Ok Ronnie Hillman, the time is now. It was reveled on Monday that starting running back Montee Ball will miss the preseason due to an emergency appendectomy on Monday afternoon. The good news for Ball and the Denver Broncos is that the running back should be 100% for the opener on September 7th versus the Indianapolis Colts.
While Ball’s absence opens the door for every running back on the Broncos roster, it is Hillman that must take full advantage.
C.J. Anderson has solidified his spot as Ball’s backup and he will benefit from the additional playing time in the preseason. It’s unlikely that Anderson’s role will change in the regular season once Ball returns.
As for the rookie free agents, their situation does not change much either. Kapri Bibbs, Brennan Clay and Juwan Thompson will certainly receive more reps in the preseason, and that will give them more opportunities to impress. In the end, however, those three are still likely competing for one spot. Ball missing the preseason does not change that.
Hillman has been an enigma since arriving in Denver two years ago; the running back has immense talent but that hasn’t translated to the field yet. To his credit, Hillman is having his best training camp by far and has received accolades from the coaches.
The absence of Ball in August will give Hillman more opportunities to play with the first team offense and if he can take advantage, then the Broncos have a terrific 1-2 punch once Ball returns.
Ball can provide the toughness on the inside, and Hillman has the speed to stretch a defense on the edges. It’s very difficult for any defense to go from trying to tackle a bruiser like Ball to then chasing a speedster like Hillman.
Hillman is a perfect fit for the Broncos; his skill set is ideal for the offense led by Peyton Manning. He has the speed to get to the outside on the stretch play that Manning likes so much, and can be a threat in the passing game.
Imagine it’s 3rd and 5, and the Broncos go to a four wide receiver set with Hillman in the backfield. The opposing secondary goes to six defensive backs in an effort to cover those receivers, and they manage to do just that. Here’s the problem though, Hillman is now one-on-one with a linebacker and he’s going to win that matchup every time.
Now being perfect for an offense and producing are two different things and Hillman must prove in the preseason that he can be depended on. His ball security has been the biggest issue and that’s what cost him playing time in 2014. One fumble in the preseason and his time with the Broncos could be over.
You never want to see a player get hurt, especially a starter but the good news is that Ball should be ready to go in September. All the running backs will benefit from additional playing time in August, but this opportunity for Hillman is huge.
He’s had a great camp and the talent is there. This is where talent must meet opportunity for Hillman. It might be his last chance and it’s a big one.