Put simply, fumbles are unacceptable in the NFL, especially when it comes to running backs.
That’s why the Denver Broncos need to seriously consider severing ties with Ronnie Hillman, their fumble-prone No. 2 running back.
While Hillman hasn’t seen much playing time this season with Knowshon Moreno taking over as the Broncos’ top runner, the second-year ball-carrier has still managed to make several significant mistakes throughout the year. His latest was a costly goal-line fumble against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night that basically killed the Broncos’ chances of coming away with a win.
This isn’t the first instance of Hillman fumbling away opportunities, though.
Throughout the 2013 preseason, Hillman had a hard time holding onto the football. In the only game of four preseason bouts that he received more than 10 carries, the former San Diego State star fumbled twice – one was returned 100 yards for a touchdown. He also fumbled once as a receiver in the Broncos’ four preseason games.
While mistakes during the preseason are forgivable, fumbling away the game during the regular season can cripple a player’s chances of seeing any sort of significant touches. Following his latest blunder, Hillman might not have a place in the Bronco’s backfield for long.
With Hillman out of the picture, the Broncos would be able to get rookie Montee Ball more touches moving forward. Their second-round pick back in April, Ball appears to be the running back of the future in Denver, but has also struggled with fumbles in his first year. By moving him up the depth chart, he’d get valuable game experience that would help prepare him for a future as the No. 1 back.
The only reason Hillman has even seen the field this season is due to the fact the Broncos are regularly nursing huge leads. Apart from one game against a subpar Oakland Raiders defense, the 2012 third-round pick has been generally ineffective on the ground – 157 yards and one touchdown on 36 carries. Subtract the Raiders game from the equation, and Hillman is averaging only 3.3 yards per carry.
Even if they opt to keep him on the roster, the Broncos need to stop giving him the football in key situations. They might be 6-1 and well on their way to a playoff spot, but Denver won’t survive through the postseason if Hillman is allowed to make crucial mistakes like Sunday’s fumble.
If anything, expect Hillman to only see touches in garbage time. Don’t count out the Broncos waiving or trading him if the problems persist, though.