There used to be a time when whoever started at running back for the Denver Broncos was guaranteed to rush for 1,000 yards. However, in 2013 with Peyton Manning at quarterback and Wes Welker, Eric Decker and DeMaryius Thomas at wide receiver, the Broncos have turned to a running back by committee. The running game is used in Denver to compliment the passing game and set up the play-action for Manning.
The three backs that make up the committee are Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball. Moreno was a first round pick in 2009, but has never been able to hold onto the position or the football. He fumbled seven times in his first two seasons and was eventually replaced by Willis McGahee.
Hillman was brought in as a rookie in 2012 to be a change-of-pace back. He has excellent speed, is a good receiver out of the backfield and can be a great complimentary piece to a team. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine, but at only 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, he isn’t a guy who can carry the ball 20 times a game.
In the 2013 NFL Draft, the Broncos chose Ball out of Wisconsin. Ball is the all-time Division 1 leader in overall TDs and rushing TDs. He finished his career in Wisconsin by rushing for 77 touchdowns, including 55 his last two years. He is a little shorter than the prototypical back at only 5-foot-10 but at 215 pounds, he has the ability to run through defenders.
So far this season, Moreno has received 34 carries, Ball 31 and Hillman 14. On Monday night, it seemed as though they were giving Ball every chance to win the lead back duties, but a late fumble may have opened the competition back up. The trio carried the ball 32 times for 166 yards and one TD against the Raiders. Until one of these backs can prove they can handle the role of lead back, the Broncos should continue with this committee.