Montee Ball still headed toward Broncos’ starting RB gig
The working assumption after the Denver Broncos drafted Montee Ball, in Round 2 of this year’s draft, was that Ball would make his way quickly to the top of the team’s depth chart at running back. With training camp just underway, nothing has changed that line of thinking.
The MMQB’s Peter King tweeted Friday from the Broncos’ camp home of Dove Valley: “Ball better than (Ronnie Hillman), to win job eventually”.
King further fueled the Montee Momentum in his “Postcard from Training Camp” video:
“[Ball] is a running back who will be expected to carry a big part of the load this year, especially with the cutting of Willis McGahee in the offseason,” King said. “Talking to Ball, he thinks that he will be most suited to help early on in the passing game, because at Wisconsin that was the strength of his game. Look for him to have a few wheel routes, maybe a couple of choice routes out of the backfield with Peyton Manning. They’ve been working on that a lot in minicamps.”
Ball caught 59 passes out of the backfield for Wisconsin during his college career, plus showed quite a bit of promise as a blocker. But it’s his downhill running ability that makes him such an apparent fit in the Broncos’ scheme. Over his final two seasons with the Badgers, Ball rushed for a mind-boggling 3,753 yards and 55 touchdowns.
McGahee, meanwhile, led the Broncos in rushing last season with 731 yards and four touchdowns, but he played in only 10 games because of a significant knee injury. Denver sent him packing in June, the latest indication that Ball would duke it out with Hillman for top dog in the backfield.
And while Hillman, the team’s third-round pick in 2012, opened both OTAs and camp with the first-team offense, he did little in his 84 carries last season to lock himself into a starting job.
In fact, just prior to the most recent draft, Elway referred to Hillman as “a 190-pound change-of-pace type guy.” Hillman may be best suited in Elway’s eyes, then, to work as an alternate to Ball within the Broncos’ attack.
None of this is especially new, mind you. The Broncos have the luxury of pitting Hillman and Ball against each other through camp and the preseason to determine the pecking order, with Knowshon Moreno possibly working his way into the mix once he fully recovers from his own knee injury. Denver also figures to remain a pass-first team, too, with Peyton Manning still calling the shots at quarterback.
Ball, though, has a chance to make one of the most significant rookie impacts across the NFL this season. He’s still right on track for that hype, from the sound of it.