How "Green" are our RBs?
With the roster still at 90 players (or 89), we currently have 7 RBs on the roster: Ball, Anderson, Hillman, Thompson, Bibbs, Clay and Williams. The most experienced of those guys (by years in the league) is Ronnie Hillman who will be playing his 3rd NFL season this year. Counting rookies as having 0 years of NFL experience, our group or RBs averages a tiny 0.7 years of NFL experience (weighed down heavily by the number of rookies). Admittedly, this number will go up because at least 3 of those guys won't make the final 53, but is it normal for an NFL team to be this inexperienced at RB? To find out we need to look at what other NFL teams have on their rosters.
|TEAM||Ave RB Exp|
As you can see from the table, the Broncos are significant outliers at this point. Over the entire NFL (according to current rosters), the average numbers of years in the NFL for all RBs is 2.8. I did not count the 10 or so players listed as FBs on NFL rosters. Only the Jags are even close to us in terms of RB inexperience and their average is still twice ours. They currently have two veterans (Gerhart and Toddman) and three rookies listed as RBs on their roster.
Does it look better if we used carries as the metric not years of service?
Not really. The Broncos stable of RBs has 266 COMBINED NFL carries which is roughly equivalent to what a "1A" RB (good main ball carrier) does in one season. Using carries we are much closer to JAX than years in the league would make it appear. Their RBs have a grand total of 355 NFL carries. The next youngest team, TB, has a RB stable with 656 NFL carries (most of them by Doug Martin), or more than double the number of NFL carries of our current group. The most experienced NFL backfield, DET, has, surprisingly, only 1711 NFL carrries. Reggie Bush, has never gotten that many carries in any season, despite having 9 years of NFL experience. Montell Owens is mainly a FB and special teamer (46 carry carries in 9 NFL seasons). Mikel Leshoure has been plagued by injuries so he hasn't carried the ball much (only 217 carries in 3 season). This gets tempered a little bit when you realize that the current active player with the most career carries is Steven Jackson with 2552. However, that is more than 10 times our current stable's total.
Does this matter?
It does and it doesn't.
Here's why it does (sort of). The general thought around the league is that veteran RBs are better at blitz pick-up than rookies. Given that our passing offense broke multiple NFL records last season, the ability of our RBs to pick up the blitz is paramount. If any of our top 3 RBs is poor at blitz pick-up, it could make any play with them involved less effective - getting your QB sacked and/or pressured would definitely qualify as "ineffective". Oddly, a RB with a reputation as a poor pass blocker might make play-action with him MORE effective. Let's say Hillman has a reputation of being below average at blitz pick-up (which he very well might). If Manning looks like he is handing off to Hillman, then most defenders are going to bite hard on the play fake, potentially freeing up receivers.
Here's why it doesn't. We still might pick up a veteran RB during the preseason roster cut-downs. While I would not expect that RB to get much in the way of snaps, that veteran might at least increase our average experience making us no longer the youngest team in the league at RB. That being said, years of experience and total carries really don't matter that much if the RB on the field can get the job done - whatever that job happens to be (blitz pick-up, running the ball or catching the ball). Barring injury, Monte Ball should get ~250 carries this season. The other ~200 carries will be divided amongst Hillman, Anderson and the 4th back if we keep one (barring a major preseason surprise). Here's the Breakdown in terms of carries for the past three seasons among the top 4 ballcarriers (excluding PFM)
2013: 241, 120, 55, 7
2012: 167, 139, 84, 42
2011: 249, 122 (Tebow), 96, 37, 14, 14
It's possible that we could find a released veteran RB who could supplant CJ and Ronnie as the #2 back, but realistically, if we do pick up a veteran he will be the 3rd or 4th RB and get roughly 40 carries all year. He presumably would also not be getting too many snaps (unless he is a tank who is brought is specifically as a pass blocker on passing downs or for goal-line runs - unless that is current UDFA darling Juwan Thompson).