Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox announced on Monday that running back, Ronnie Hillman is day-to-day with a sprained mid-foot. However the Denver Post is reporting that it is likely an injury that will sideline the running back for at least two weeks.
Assuming that report is true, the Broncos must hand the starting job over to C.J. Anderson. In all honesty, I had planned on writing this article today before the injury news on Hillman broke.
Don’t get me wrong, Hillman still has a role on this team when he returns and his re-commitment to the game has been impressive. However, Anderson brings some qualities to the position that Hillman does not.
The Broncos were in real trouble versus the Oakland Raiders when Anderson caught a simple swing pass and turned it into a 55 yard touchdown to give the Broncos a 13-10 lead. By all rights, it should have resulted in a two yard loss but Anderson broke several tackles and turned in what might be the Broncos offensive play of the year. That one play ignited the offense and the Broncos went onto blowout the Raiders 41-17.
In addition to that play, Anderson put together several runs of 10 yards or more and caught several more passes out of the backfield. He also looked much better than Hillman in pass protection and picked up several blitzes allowing Peyton Manning time to throw.
Hillman has saved the Broncos in recent weeks but Anderson is more of a prototypical running back. He has the size to break tackles and get the tough yards inside and enough speed to break off longer runs when they are there. Anderson would also help the Broncos in short yardage, an area that they’ve struggled in at times this season.
As we saw on Sunday, Anderson is also capable of catching the ball out of the backfield.
While Anderson should start, the return of Montee Ball will also help. He can spell Anderson when needed and gives the Broncos a two headed approach in the backfield. From all reports, Ball has lost about eight pounds and looks quicker in practice.
As for Hillman, his role when he returns should be as a change of pace back and as a receiving threat on passing downs. Imagine a defense that is tired from Anderson pounding on them and then Hillman comes in with his speed. A fatigued defense will have a difficult time with Hillman’s speed, and that will lead to some big plays.
The Broncos have struggled with the running game but it has shown life in recent weeks, and they will need to continue to improve if the Broncos want to accomplish their ultimate goal.
They have four quality backs if you include Juwan Thompson and they all have a role going forward, but Anderson must be the starting running back when the Broncos take on the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.