Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 8/14/12

It appears rookie third round draft pick Ronnie Hillman has the inside track to be Willis McGahee's top backup. According to Mark Stringer of Rantsports.com, Hillman has the best chance of being Denver's change of pace back.

What Stringer says in this article isn't anything new. He simply says that Hillman returned to practice on Saturday after missing about a week of practice due to hamstring issues. This article is merely speculation and isn't really indicative of the thinking behind the Broncos' brass as of the moment.

Having said that, what Stringer says, goes along with what I've stated on Broncos101.com, and what I've written on Bleacher Report. Hillman – not Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball or Xavier Omon or any other RB on Denver's roster – will have all of the chances in the world to not only be Denver's No. 2 running back, but Denver's starting running back as the season wears on.

Willis McGahee will be 31 years of age in two months, and has suffered numerous serious injuries in college and the pros, that nobody knows when his body will break down. Remember in 2008, a season after signing with Baltimore in which he had "re-emerged" as a quality starting running back by rushing over 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns as Baltimore's clear go-to running back? He lost his starting job, as Le'Ron McClain had established himself as a better rushing threat, and even rookie Ray Rice did too as the season wore on.

The point is, you just don't know when McGahee will break down. This is the importance of having a quality backup running back to McGahee, who in 2012, enters the season nearing the age of 31, rather in 2007 or in 2008, when he was 26 and 27 years old. That's a big difference in the NFL, especially when it pertains to the RB position.

If McGahee falters and Hillman is unable to establish himself as a quality threat in his rookie season, it will add a lot more pressure on Peyton Manning to carry the Denver offense. It will be reminiscent of his final years in Indianapolis, where the Colts had no running game.

Lance Ball is versatile, but excels in no particular area. He's solid at running the football on occasion, solid at pass-catching, solid at pass-blocking. Notice the key word – solid. Not excellent, or great at any particular area. He's your prototypical third-down back, or third-string running back.

Knowshon Moreno is terrible at running the football. Yes, I said terrible. Moreno has yet to display that he's an explosive rushing threat in his three years of NFL service. He's a good pass-catcher and good blocker in pass protection. However, why would the Broncos keep around Moreno for that service, when they can just pay Ball a lot less to do the same thing as a third-string running back? Ball also doesn't have the injury history that Moreno has. Ball stays on the field. Moreno doesn't.

As Stringer says, it is up to Hillman to show in these last three preseason games that he's ready to handle the load for the Broncos. It's his for the taking.

 

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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