A lot has changed for running back Montee Ball since training camp started on July 31st. He entered camp as the No. 2 RB behind C.J. Anderson, but has since been leapfrogged by two players on the depth chart—Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson.
Now, with only four days until the Denver Broncos have to trim their roster down to the final 53 guys, Ball is on the bubble, competing with Kapri Bibbs for what could be the fourth and final RB spot.
In the opening preseason game, Ball carried the rock eight times for just 26 yards. Over the last two games, he's carried a grand total of eight times, netting just 15 yards. He was the last RB to take the field in Denver Saturday night.
“I was expecting a lot more playing time," Ball said. "It caught me off-guard, but my head’s not down. I'm going to keep it up and keep fighting."
“[RB] Montee [Ball] and [RB] Kapri [Bibbs] are going to get the bulk of the work in the game," Kubiak said. "They both deserve plenty of touches and they should get them coming out of this game, and they will both play special teams a great deal, too. We talked about the Montee deal. He needs a bunch of carries and he'll get them on Thursday.”
Reading between the lines, it doesn't take a rocket scientist or football guru to divine that as of right now, Anderson, Hillman, and Thompson are the only three RB's standing on solid ground. Ball, a second round pick two years ago, has to have the game of his professional career on Thursday, if he hopes to stick around.
Watching Ball on film this preseason, his issue has been patience—he's too patient. And by the time he makes his decision and cuts to the hole, it's closed. It's gone. He has to be more decisive and hit the hole with explosive burst and authority.
With an extensive history in a zone blocking system, going all the way back to his days at Wisconsin, it's hard to fathom Ball having such a difficult time in Kubiak's scheme. But he is. And the truth is that the Broncos don't need to carry four running backs, especially if they keep one on the practice squad.
If Ball fails to play well on Thursday, his career in Denver is most certainly in jeopardy. However, with the level of investment the Broncos have in him, you can believe they'll give him every opportunity to keep his roster spot. It's not easy to cut a second round pick two years in.
The Broncos have done it before, however. Safety Darcel McBath was selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft by then head coach Josh McDaniels. In his maiden year (2011) as the Broncos front office executive, John Elway waived McBath right before the start of the regular season.
Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade and cut your losses. If Ball can't turn the ship around—fully healthy—the Broncos will be better served using that roster spot on an impact player and putting the draft faux pas in their rearview. Don't discount the possibility of Elway putting Ball on the trading block either.
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