Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman could be a good chance-of-pace guy in this league, and that was reflected in a praise-filled statement from Broncos head coach John Fox earlier this season, in which Fox called Hillman a “tremendous talent”. The 22-year-old San Diego State product has yet to make good on that talent, though, as he averaged a pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry as a rookie before averaging 4.0 yards per pop last season; this all despite facing easier defensive fronts with an elite, Peyton Manning-led passing attack.
Per the Denver Post’s Troy E. Renck, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase “made it clear” that Hillman needs to improve, and it sounds like Hillman’s place on the team might not be safe. Gase said, “We’ve talked to him, (running backs coach) Eric (Studesville) and myself, as far as: ‘Hey, this is a new start to the year. Whatever happened in the past, you’ve got to build off it. We’ve just got to start over. His goal is to become the best running back he can. I can’t say make or break, because I don’t know what that is. He’s got to work his butt off and make sure he puts himself in a great position to contribute this year.”
Although the Broncos added an intriguing local, small-school RB in Kapri Bibbs and Oklahoma’s Brennan Clay in undrafted free agency, Hillman’s job should be safe. He has the most all-around ability of the backs on the roster, and his pass-catching ability is very important with Knowshon Moreno now a member of the Miami Dolphins. Hillman has ball security issues and hasn’t been a productive rusher, but he is heading into a big third year of his career. It is a “make-or-break” season for him? I honestly think it is, based on Gase’s quote, but I can’t see the Broncos cutting him unless if he flops big-time in August and either Bibbs or Clay explodes.