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Gary Kubiak: Ronnie Hillman Is In 'A Hell Of A Battle' Right Now

Denver's head coach made it clear that for Ronnie Hillman, nothing is guaranteed.

He might have been the Denver Broncos leading rusher in 2016, but Ronnie Hillman's spot on this year's roster is very much in question. Following a heated practice on Monday, head coach Gary Kubiak spoke to just how dire Hillman's situation currently is. 

“Ronnie is in a battle," Kubiak said. "He’s in a hell of a battle with Kapri [Bibbs] and [Devontae] Booker right now. There’s no way around that. I’m just being honest with you. Special teams will be really important. Ronnie is going to play a lot this week and he’s going to play some special teams, so it’s a very competitive situation.” Following Super Bowl 50, Hillman's rookie contract expired. He tested the free agent market and found that there wasn't much of a clamor for his services around the NFL. The Broncos brought him back on a one-year, $2 million deal—almost as an afterthought. 

Not long afterward, the Broncos selected Devontae Booker in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. With C.J. Anderson's emergence down the stretch and into the playoffs, the Broncos chose to pay him, rather than Hillman. 

As well they should have. There are a lot of differences between Anderson and Hillman, but perhaps the most glaring is yards after contact. As fast as Hillman is, he goes down on first contact more often than not. 

On the other hand, it usually takes multiple players to bring down Anderson. C.J. simply brings more to the table than Hillman does. 

Attitude is a big deal. At 19 years old, Hillman entered the professional ranks as the NFL's youngest player. He had a lot of growing up to do. Last year, spending most of the season as Denver's starter, it seemed that he had matured significantly. Fast forward to Broncos Camp 2016, and the cracks in Hillman's facade have begun to reveal themselves. Being asked to compete for a roster spot, Hillman has displayed a bad attitude and a questionable work ethic and drive. 

It's costing him. Kapri Bibbs showed up at camp this year committed to finally winning a roster spot. That hunger has allowed Bibbs to outshine Hillman three weeks into camp. 

If special teams is going to be a primary factor, it bodes even worse for Ronnie Hillman. Bibbs has shown vast improvement in that department. 

Throw in the rookie Booker, who has almost dominated camp and ran with great power in Denver's opening preseason game, and Hillman is in a dog-fight. Gary Kubiak has been in the NFL for more than 30 years. And he's spent most of that time as a coach. 

The best coaches are master psychologists. Kubiak knows how to motivate a player. His remarks following Monday's practice will either light a fire under Hillman's backside, or fall on deaf ears. 

If Hillman fails to heed his coach's words, he'll find himself on the outside looking in come September 8. But it's not too late to turn the ship around. 

For what it's worth, the Broncos can save $1.5 million on the salary cap by releasing Ronnie Hillman before Week 1. 

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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