Film Study: Developing Ronnie Hillman, rushing the ball

Justin Edmonds

Following up on the Kaptain's look at the progress of Ronnie Hillman.

Kirk has already given a good breakdown on his numbers thus far. We have both looked at film of his and analyzed some of his play thus far into the season. Though I'm posting this one, this is a joint effort and the Kaptain has contributed some great insight and analysis that I will include here.

My overall feeling coming into this is that he hasn't been played all that much. There's been some decent gains, and a few big plays that show potential, but overall the jury is still out. Hillman has played a total of 48 snaps over the course of 4 games. He's only rushed the ball 17 of those snaps. He's only seen extended action during garbage time against the Raiders. To get a better idea of how he's used, here is how the Broncos have been alligned on his rushing plays:

Personnel Formation Rushes
11 "Singleback" 2
--- "Shotgun" 9
12 "Singleback" 4
--- "Shotgun" 0
21 "I" 2
--- "Shotgun" 0

As you can see, Hillman has gotten most of his rushes from the shotgun in "11" personnel. The next most common look the Broncos are in when Hillman has rushed has been the 2 TE look. That final grouping, "21" was only used twice with Hillman in the Oakland game---Chris Gronkowski was his FB.

I snip about 3-5 screenshots per play. 17 plays is a ton to include everything here, so what I'll do instead is choose a good variety from the sample size to give you a better indication on what's been going on with him rushing the ball. I'll go ahead and break it down game by game.

v. HOU

2-4-HOU 43

11 Personnel. Dreessen Decker and Stokley trips left. Inside to the left side, Manny Ramirez pulls to lead and Clady moves forward to block his man straight up. Beadles and Koppen block down to the right. Matt Willis moves up and gets a chip on the safety, but the LCB (his man moves in and makes the stop when Hillman is forced to the outside.

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1-10-DEN 30

The lone setback, Hillman takes the toss left. Student body left and the NT makes the tackle trailing the play. Beadles gets a good pull block, but the play is well defensed. In the third frame I highlight the fact that it looks like Hillman could have chosen two ways to take the play. Had he followed Tamme to the left, he might have had a better shot at a big gain.

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v OAK

Here, I want to highlight a play sequence where Ronnie rushed the ball four straight times. Each rush in the sequence went for 0, 12, 6, and -2 yards respectively.

1-10-DEN 36

21 Personnel, I formation. Off the snap, Tamme whiffs on his man. Since Gronk is in there it shouldn't be an issue because he can cleam him up. The problem is that Tamme refocuses his attention back on his assignment instead of the guy who's charging up the field. Hillman puts in a good effort just to get the ball back to the line of schrimmage.

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2-10-DEN 36

12 personnel, singleback. Nearly everyone is winning their blocking assignment, except for Beadles who gets pushed into the backfield near Hillman. Hillman stops, reverses field, and turns a sure loss into a 12-yard gain. Had Franklin been able to hold his block just a little bit longer, this might have went for 6.

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2-4-OAK 48

12 Personnel, singleback. This is a good look at zone blocking in motion. Tamme and Clady are in on a double team as are Beadles and Koppen. At the snap a decent hole seems to appear. The Raider LB slides over to his right to plug it. At that moment Beadles disengages from Seymour on the double team and takes on the LB. Hillman looks to have a good shot at a rather large play. Seymour however overpowers Koppen, and is able to put an arm around Hillman slowing him down as he hits the hole.

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2-4-OAK 46

12 Personnel, singleback. Hillman never has a chance. The highlighted Raider defender rushes past Koppen and blows Hillman up in the backfield.

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Ok folks, in the home stretch. Gonna include two more plays, one from the NE game and one from the SD game.

1-10-NE 34

11 personnel, shotgun. Remember that zone blocking play in 12 personnel a few plays back? Well this is how they do it in Shotgun. I've highlighted the blocking assignments. It seems to me like Koppen is a bit late on Spikes which keeps this from getting to the safety level. 7-yard gain nonetheless. A big play is going to come from this as our guys adapt to each other better when zone blocking.

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1-20-DEN 42

11 Personnel, singleback. Here's another example of a zone blocking play. At the snap, Kuper engages his man then shoots to the 2nd level toward the SD linebacker. Probably just rust, but the LB treats Kuper like a bull and "Ole!" past him. I think if Kuper gets the block here this is a big gain. There's only a single high safety in the middle of the field if he gets there. Hillman sees this and in a split second jump steps the opposite direction. Could have had a big gain here as well except the SD safety made a fantastic diving play to trip him up.

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My Impressions

Hillman has done a decent job considering the limited amount of snaps he's had. As a runner he's a home run threat that has been just a block here or there from springing one. I see good instincts and speed. His vision, can't quite guage this yet. There were a few plays where I saw a different path for a larger gain, but keep in mind folks this is with stills and the rewind button. Unlike Knowshon who has had the problem of dancing around the backfield, Hillman seems to make up his mind quicker in committing to a hole. McGahee though is still the best of our backs at hitting the hole when it is there. All in all, I didn't see much there to suggest Hillman is missing yards due to mistakes, what holes do exist don't stay open long enough for him to exploit them. Also remember that the kid is 21 and has room to grow physically as well as mentally.

Check back in another week or so folks when the Kaptain and I bring you so more Hillman film checking out a few blitz pickups and routes out of the backfield.

GO BRONCOS!!!

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