Despite being the leading rusher for the Denver Broncos in 2015, Ronnie Hillman found himself in a preseason battle for his job. The way these battles typically work is two or three running backs will be given opportunities during the preseason to carry the ball. Whoever has the best preseason based on how they look, combined with their stats, wins the job. In the Broncos case, most of the backs got a similar number of carries, aside from Kapri Bibbs who got about double that of the others.
In order to get an idea of how each performed, the above table shows the compiled preseason stats for each of the Denver Broncos’ running backs. Also, both CJ and Ronnie had one touchdown run apiece, and none of the backs fumbled. Now, because Bibbs had a lot more carries, he could have suffered from a reduction in his per carry production due to the effects of some ground and pound football. If this were the case, a huge run would inflate other backs’ averages more than his own. To attempt to negate that effect, we can remove the longest run from each of the backs’ average which should provide a better representation of how each back carried the ball typically, as opposed to when they were able to break one long one. When comparing this new stat, Booker was reduced to 2.4 yds/carry, Anderson carried for 3.8 yds/carry, Bibbs carried for 3.4 yds/carry, and Hillman still dominated the field at 5.2 yds/carry.
When you are asking a back to give you everything he has in order to prove to you he deserves to keep his job, and then he gives you that and you still cut him, it either shows a lot of nerve or a lot of stupidity. This preseason Hillman ran for more than a yard per carry better than that of even the number one back, and almost two yards per carry better than the guy replacing him.
There has been some discussion from fans and the media suggesting that Hillman had too many mistakes and not enough production. We’re going to need to see some proof of this. Hillman lost one fumble last year while Anderson lost two. For touchdowns, Hillman had seven while Anderson had five. Despite being used incorrectly (how did Denver not know you run your power back up the middle and your speed back on the outside?), Hillman still produced the most yards and, in instances where both Hillman and Anderson were given at least 10 carries, Hillman outproduced Anderson on a per carry basis more than half the time.
Now I know it sounds like I’m suggesting Hillman should replace Anderson as the number one back, but I’m not. I’m saying that the two backs complement each other really well when having one as the power back and the other as the speed back. It also would have been super exciting to see both of them running behind Janovich (especially if Kubiak would have adhered to the above advice). But alas, despite Hillman proving he deserved to be at least the number two back in the Denver Bronco offense, misguidedness, pride, or sheer stupidity has convinced the Broncos he needed to be sent home.