Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson now have their chance

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Montee Ball is the starting running back for the Denver Broncos in 2014. There is no doubt he is the man in the backfield.

But Ball had an appendectomy Monday and will likely miss the remainder of the team’s preseason work. He will not get those much needed reps with quarterback Peyton Manning in preseason games and practice. Manning is all about practice and getting things as close to perfect as possible. Ball will miss out on that chance.

What happened to Ball was just something that occurs. It is better that it happened now and not in September when he would miss meaningful games.

With Ball sitting out until hopefully the regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 7 at Sports Authority Field, the other backs have to step up and mainly that pressure lies on Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson.

Everybody knows both of their stories. Hillman was entrenched as the starter during OTAs in 2013 and saw time as the No. 1 guy in the preseason. He lost that spot to Knowshon Moreno as camp went on. Hillman had a fumbling problem, which carried on in the regular season as well, and he also missed blocking assignments in the passing game. That is a big no-no in the Broncos offense.

Anderson was an undrafted free agent entering camp last season. He shined. Especially in the opening preseason game against the 49ers. Anderson’s storybook run slowed down in camp as he injured his knee. The Broncos liked him a lot and kept him in the roster.

Anderson didn’t see too much time on the field. The bad news for him was he had a chance against the Patriots in November but he also put the ball on the ground. The coaches lost confidence in him and Hillman.

Hillman will start Thursday’s preseason opener against the defending Super Bowl champ Seattle Seahawks. Hillman said he talked to Ball and is ready for the challenge of starting.

“I texted him to make sure he was all right,” Hillman told ESPN.com. “… You always want to be ready if they need you, so I’m just trying to be ready for whatever they need me to do until Montee gets back.”

Hillman has shown flashes before but has never looked like the explosive player the Broncos thought he was when they drafted him. Denver likened him to Darren Sproles. Hillman has not met those expectations.

He has totaled 548 yards in his two seasons in Denver but just two touchdowns. He is not making plays. Though, Hillman did play strong in the 2012 loss to the Ravens in the playoffs after Moreno was hurt.

What the Broncos get from Anderson is really anybody’s guess. He has looked good in preseason but when the lights were brighter he struggled. He gets another chance this preseason.

The Broncos are trying to get tougher on offense. They want to so teams know that they can be physical on that side. Ball was going to be the back. There were questions surrounding Ball as well but the Broncos have faith in him.

Now due to an unfortunate circumstance, Denver has to put their faith in two unproven backs. Hillman and Anderson have to show they have what it takes.


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