After yesterday's 34-0 defeat of the San Francisco 49ers the Denver Broncos competition at running back is starting to become a little more clear. With starting running back Montee Ball being out after an appendectomy the coaches have had plenty of time to look at the competition behind Ball. Earlier this offseason Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase called the Broncos running back position behind Ball "Wide Open", and it appears that it still is.
As of right now, third year player Ronnie Hillman is second on the depth chart, followed by second year player C.J Anderson, and undrafted rookies Juwan Thompson, Kapri Bibbs and Brennan Clay bring up the rear.
So lets take a look at how all of the Broncos backs have faired through two preseason games.
2014 Preseason Stats: 10 attempts for 34 yards, 3.4 YPC, 1 touchdown, 0 fumbles, and 2 receptions for 11 yards.
Hillman has been handling the majority of the 1st team carries at running back and has been looking pretty decent. Hillman is looking more confident in his runs, hitting the hole quicker, and just running harder then he has during his first two seasons with the Broncos. Also it appears(at least thus far) that Hillman has fixed his fumbling issues.
With all that said I don't see Hillman as the Broncos main backup to Montee Ball. Yes he is number two on the depth chart, but his role will remain the same no matter what I believe. I think Hillman is the Broncos change of pace/scat back this year who will get 10-15 touches a game. Hillman isn't built to be a bell cow back who can carry it 20-25+ times a game.
I believe the Broncos will try to get Hillman into space more this season. Whether that being through the passing game, screens, or running against 5-6 man boxes.
2014 Preseason stats: 10 attempts for 34 yards, 3.4 YPC, 0 fumbles, and 4 receptions for 20 yards.
I have liked what i've seen from Anderson thus far. He's a downhill runner who explodes when he gets the ball. A tough runner who has the vision to make the right cut to take it to the second level.
The thing I like the most about Anderson is that I believe he has the best 10 yard split of all of the Broncos backs. He gets the ball and just accelerates. Another thing i've liked seeing from Anderson is his receiving skills.
I believe Anderson will be the Broncos short yardage back, and will be the primary backup to Montee Ball.
2014: Preseason stats: 12 carries for 69 yards(5.75 YPC), 0 fumbles, and 2 receptions for 19 yards.
I am firmly on the Juwan Thompson bandwagon. I love how this guy runs. He's a physical runner who is consistently knocking defenders backwards when they attempt to tackle him. Thompson looks to run through defenders instead of around them. I love that about him. Another thing that really stands out is his vision and cut back ability. He finds the right hole and explodes through it.
I know he has been going against 2's and 3's, but in my opinion he has looked like the Broncos best back this preseason. I'm not saying he should be starting, but if he continues I don't think it's out of question that he starts pushing Anderson and Hillman for snaps.
2014 Preseason stats: 8 carries for 28 yards(3.5 YPC), 1 touchdown, and 0 fumbles.
I'm still a Kapri Bibbs fan. I liked what I have seen from him during the preseason. Much like Anderson and Thompson he's a explosive downhill runner with good cut back ability. Bibbs does look like he has a little more speed then those two though.
The problem for Bibbs is that there might not be room for him on the roster(barring injury of course). With Ball, Hillman, Anderson and Thompson all ahead of him, the prospects of Bibbs making the final 53 aren't very good as of right now. Is he definitely a Practice Squad candidate, i'm just not that confident that he would clear waivers unclaimed.
2014 preseason stats: 7 carries for 7 yards(1.0 YPC).
I haven't been very impressed with Clay thus far. In his defense he hasn't had much of a chance to do much during the preseason. He's only played in late game situations where the defense is looking for the run. I still haven't seen much from the undrafted rookie to warrant a roster spot.
Clay is also a candidate to be on the practice squad.
2014 preseason stats: 2 carries for 2 yards(1.0 YPC).
Williams saw his first playing time of the preseason in the final minutes of Sunday's preseason game. Williams is quite the long shot to make the team, and I'd be surprised if he was added to the teams practice squad.
Williams will have the final preseason game to show his worth.
I think we all can agree that the four backs the Broncos probably will end up keeping are Montee Ball, C.J Anderson, Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson. The big question is where they end up on the depth chart.
My guess would be that Ball will be your main guy, Anderson will be your short yardage guy who will also spell Ball when he's tired, Hillman will be your change of pace back whose touches will depend on the matchup, and Thompson probably will be a game day inactive.
I still see Thompson pushing Hillman and/or Anderson for snaps though. I also wouldn't rule out a running back by committee type deal happening in Denver.
Tell me what you guys think? Who is the Broncos number two running back? who do you think makes the team?