The running back corps for the Denver Broncos is in solid shape. They have a young bunch, who have shown flashes of potential, but need consistency. All of the running backs have only joined the Broncos within the last few years, and mostly through undrafted free agency.
Currently, only two running backs on the roster were Broncos draft picks. Three of the remaining four came as undrafted free agents, picked up by the Broncos and the last a free agent pickup.
Now, the training camp battle for running back isn’t exactly for the top two spots, though there is a small battle brewing. As it stands, C.J. Anderson holds the top spot, with Montee Ball sitting behind him.
There is a chance Ball could unseat Anderson as the starter, which is Ball’s goal, but he will have to be better than perfect to do that. They will be a one-two punch, if all goes according to plan, and it should keep defenses on their heels.
With Ball, another thing he has to do is stay healthy. Last year, he had an appendectomy, then a leg injury, which he was rushed back from and re-injured, which led to a very limited season. He gained weight after the appendectomy and has since lost it and is back to his customary playing weight.
Of course, when Ball did see the field he wasn’t great, but he was far from the whole problem. The offensive line for the Broncos struggled to get it together in run blocking last season. Finally, Ball has to get his ball security back to his college days, where he never fumbled.
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Anderson does not have those concerns and really stepped up late last season as the top running back for the Broncos, which happened due to the injuries of others. Before that Anderson was a backup, then dropped to the No. 3 running back.
So, Anderson's time was very up and down, ending on a high note—the Pro Bowl. It is hoped that he will be able to perform like he did when he was the starter, but only time will tell. If he struggles, it might just be the break that Ball needs to unseat him.
When it's all said and done, I expect Ball to remain the backup to Anderson after the preseason and into the regular season, as long as the group stays healthy. I expect Anderson to have a huge season.
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After those two is where the camp battle at running back really heats up. There are two spots remaining and the Broncos have four guys competing. Juwan Thompson has an edge on the rest of the competition for the No. 3 spot. His versatility is a big reason why.
Thompson would really have to take a step backward to let the others gain on him. He also has a chance to take the backup spot, but he will need help from Ball for that to happen. So far, the top-two have a wide lead, with Thompson sitting as the best of the rest.
As it stands, Stewart is behind the other two, and really far behind for the No. 4 spot, making the battle really between Hillman and Bibbs. One of these two has been excelling in the scheme, while the other has been struggling mightily to even get a grasp on it.
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Hillman isn’t the best fit for the scheme and that showed during OTA practices. It also revealed his struggles to get a grasp on the offense. His first two years with the Broncos were mediocre at best, although last season was better, but not by much. The biggest issue with Hillman is his lack of vision. He tends to not see the open lane and instead runs into the defense.
Bibbs, on the other hand, knows the system and is an excellent fit within it. He should be sitting as the No. 4 running back right now, and should have a big lead on Stewart and Hillman for the spot.
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When you think of a zone blocking scheme running back, players like Bibbs come to mind. He has a grasp of the offense and has really excelled in practice, often making something out of nothing and displaying excellent vision.
With training camp approaching and preseason action soon to follow, the running backs should cement themselves in their positions. While this is a battle to watch, I don’t expect much, if any, change in the pecking order. Unless, knock on wood, injuries occur.
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