The running back position has been a question mark for the Denver Broncos all offseason. When 2013 starter Knowshon Moreno signed with the Miami Dolphins, many people thought the Broncos’ opening-day starting running back would be brought in via free agency. Instead, the coaching staff and personnel department has put their faith in a group of talented, but young and fairly inexperienced, running backs. This group may be raw, but it also may be one of the top-to-bottom most talented running back groups in the NFL.
Leading the way is second-year pro Montee Ball. Ball has received a vote of confidence from everyone within the Broncos organization, Peyton Manning included. While his recent appendectomy surgery (he is expected to be fully-recovered by the Sept. 7 season-opener) came at a terrible time for the Broncos, his absence is giving the other running backs more of an opportunity to state their cases as they compete for roster spots.
The much-maligned Ronnie Hillman has had a great training camp thus far and has absolutely looked like an every-down NFL running back. It has been reported that he has kept his weight at 202 pounds almost two weeks into camp, which means he could easily play the season at 205-210 pounds, a far cry from the 180 pounds he weighed as a rookie. Hillman is entering his third NFL season, yet he is still only 22 years-old. He is showing signs of serious offseason maturation and if he can correct the ball-security issues that have plagued him in the past, he may finally reach the potential that led to the Broncos selecting him in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Next up, is another second-year pro, C.J. Anderson. Anderson burst onto the scene during the 2013 training camp where his preseason game performances took him from being a long shot to making the 53-man roster. He battled some injuries and saw very little game-action in 2013, but has hit the ground running this offseason and is undoubtedly in the mix for carries in 2014. His violent running style adds a somewhat missing element to the Broncos’ rushing attack.
Ball, Hillman and Anderson are all considered locks to make the Broncos roster. Between the three of them, they bring a whopping combined total of four seasons of NFL experience.
Likely competing for the last running back roster spot is undrafted rookies Kapri Bibbs, Brennan Clay, Juwan Thompson and Jerodis Williams. Clay had reportedly pulled ahead of the others until his recent injury set him back. Bibbs has been the best pure-rusher out of the group, but is inexperienced as a pass-blocker, something that is a necessity when Peyton Manning is your quarterback. Thompson and Williams will have to have C.J. Anderson-esque preseason game performances, which is entirely possible, to work themselves back into the active roster discussion.
There isn’t a guy in the group who has had a 1,000-yard season in the NFL, and there isn’t a guy in the group aged north of 23 years old, but every one of them has 53-man roster ability. If the situation in Denver doesn’t work out for them, it would not be the least bit surprising to see Bibbs, Clay, Thompson or Williams play themselves onto an active roster of another NFL team this preseason. Likewise, Ball, Hillman and Anderson could easily develop into one of the best running back trios in the NFL for 2014. In a league that has devalued the running back position, the Broncos have what looks to be a wealth of riches at the position.