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RB Ronnie Hillman - Denver Broncos

5-9, 200Born: 9-14-1991College: San Diego StateDrafted: Round 3

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Photo: Ron Chenoy, US Presswire

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Week 21: vs Carolina Panthers

All RB vs CAR

Mark and Joe say: Tough matchup. The Broncos have relied on their running backs heavily during the playoffs - between C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman, the two players have handled 64 touches on the football, while Peyton Manning has thrown 69 passes in those two contests. Anderson scored the only offensive TD of the game against Pittsburgh, with 15/72/1 rushing and 2/11/0 receiving, while Hillman managed 16/38/0 rushing in his chances. Against the Patriots, Anderson recorded 16/72/0 rushing and 3/18/0 receiving, while Hillman handled 11/16/0 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving. Lately, Anderson has been much more effective with his chances - it would be no surprise to see him handling most of the work on Super Bowl Sunday. Carolina comes into this game with injuries to some key defensive players - defensive end Jared Allen is working hard to overcome his fractured foot and play in Super Bowl 50, but he simply may not be healthy enough to play on Sunday - outside linebacker Thomas Davis broke his arm in the NFC Championship game, had surgery to put a plate to strengthen the fracture, and will have to wear some combination of cast/soft-cast/brace if he is well enough to play in the contest against Denver. Davis said on Monday, February 1 that he could be limited in Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos, but he has every intention of playing in the game. He returned to practice and used a cast Monday. The practice status of each defender warrants attention during the late-week practices leading up to the Super Bowl. The Panthers closed out regular season ranked fourth in the NFL averaging 88.4 rushing yards allowed per game, with 11 rushing scores handed out. Over the final four weeks of regular season, the Panthers averaged 19.1 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing running backs (in the middle of the NFL range for that time span at 15th in the NFL). The Panthers stayed right on their usual pace during the Divisional Round, allowing just 12/78/0 rushing to the Seahawks, and followed up with 16/60/1 rushing allowed to the Cardinals during their 15-49 drubbing at the hands of Carolina. David Johnson recorded 15/60/1 rushing and 9/68/0 receiving during the game, indicating that Anderson could enjoy some production as a receiver in the upcoming contest. Anyway you slice it, this is a tough matchup for the Broncos' backs, even if Thomas Davis is a part-time player on Sunday.

Recent Stats and Projections

17 vs SD 36 15 117 1 3 2 10 0 0 18.7
19 vs PIT 0 16 38 0 1 0 0 0 0 3.8
20 vs NE 28 11 16 0 2 1 7 0 0 2.3
21 vs CAR 0 5 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
21 vs CAR PROJ-Dodds * 10 * * 2 * * * *
21 vs CAR PROJ-Tremblay * 8 * * 2 * * * *
21 vs CAR PROJ-Bloom * 11 * * 3 * * * *

Recent Game Summaries

2015 Week 20 vs NE (11 / 16 / 0 rush, 2 / 1 / 7 / 0 rec)

Hillman got the start but didn't make any headway at all and eventually gave way completely to CJ Anderson, who was much more effective. The offensive line struggled at times to create holes for the backs, but Hillman compounded that by being ineffective when trying to create his own space. Once, Hillman got to the edge and scampered for a nice 7-yard gain, but that was his longest run and he was never able to duplicate it.

2015 Week 19 vs PIT (16 / 38 / 0 rush, 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)

On Ronnie Hillman's first carry against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he showed the kind of margin for error that world-class speed can buy a player; he took the initial handoff to the right, ran directly into a wall of defenders, and managed to cut back across the entire field to turn a 5-yard loss into a 5-yard gain. Unfortunately, plays like that were few and far between, as his habit of going down to first contact left him with many short gains on the day, including a carry for no gain on a 3rd-and-2 direct snap trick play. Hillman also joined the dizzying array of Broncos skill players with a drop, losing a 1st-and-10 target at midfield in a tied game.

2015 Week 17 vs SD (15 / 117 / 1 rush, 3 / 2 / 10 / 0 rec)

Against a poor and injured San Diego defense, Ronnie Hillman was at his best, using his speed to hit the big plays he's become known for at a terrific rate. Eight of Hillman's 15 carries gained at least six yards. That total includes a trio of 20-yard runs, such as a 23-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter that provided Denver with the winning margin. On most plays, Hillman was simply able to explode through the hole and gain additional yards before the defense had a chance to react.

2015 Week 16 vs CIN (9 / 35 / 0 rush, 4 / 4 / 37 / 0 rec)

Against the Cincinnati Bengals, Ronnie Hillman played relatively well, using his speed to run out some medium games but as usual finding little yardage after first contact. With an early 14-point deficit, Hillman saw his fewest carries since week 9, but made up for it with an increased role in the passing game; Hillman received several screen opportunities and recorded just his fourth multi-reception game of the season.

2015 Week 15 vs PIT (14 / 48 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)

Any worries that the newly-healthy C.J. Anderson would eat into Ronnie Hillman's workload against the Steelers were dispelled early when, after fumbling at the end of a good run on his second carry, Hillman was right back in to start the next series. Hillman played the the heavy majority of Denver's running back snaps and had his share of positive plays-- perhaps the best being a 6-yard tackler-dragging reception on 3rd-and-6 that was called back due to offensive holding-- but by and large he continued his recent trend of sprinkling in far too many negative runs between highlights. A seven-yard run on 1st-and-goal from the 8, for instance, was followed immediately by a 6-yard loss on a slow-developing pitch play on 2nd-and-goal from the 1.

2015 Week 14 vs OAK (12 / 20 / 0 rush, 9 / 7 / 41 / 0 rec)

With running-mate C.J. Anderson ailing, Ronnie Hillman had a chance to shine with a larger share of Denver's backfield, but he responded with a miserable performance against an active and penetrating Raiders front 7. Hillman was especially woeful as Denver approached the end zone; on three touches in the red zone, Hillman had a loss of one, a loss of six, and a loss of five with a fumble at the end, (which Denver recovered). And while Hillman's seven receptions would seem to be a positive, they were mostly no-hope dumpoffs by a flustered Osweiler; after two positive-value receptions on Denver's first drive, Hillman didn't have a productive target until two minutes were left in the game.

2015 Week 13 vs SD (19 / 56 / 0 rush, 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)

Getting another start for the Denver Broncos, Hillman continued to be a boom and bust option in the running game. Hillman had a handful of nice runs, especially when he had room to gain yards before contact, but too many of his carries resulted in long yardage for Denver. When platoon-mate C.J. Anderson injured his ankle in the first half, Hillman split carries with backup Juwan Thompson in the second half rather than seeing an increased workload of his own.

2015 Week 12 vs NE (14 / 59 / 1 rush, 1 / 1 / 0 / 0 rec)

Ronnie Hillman earned another start against the New England Patriots and had a very up-and-down evening. Things did not start well, with Hillman totaling -1 yard from scrimmage on his first six touches, (five rushes and one reception). In fact, of his sixteen touches, (counting a run called back to penalty), Hillman gained 2 or fewer yards ten times, while gaining 9 or more yards four times. The good news is that, rather than merely relying on outrunning defenders to the corner, Hillman's long gains came on a variety of inside handoffs and stretch runs. The bad news for Hillman is that, as well as backfield-mate C.J. Anderson is playing, "up and down" may not be enough to retain a grip on the starting job for long.

2015 Week 11 vs CHI (21 / 102 / 0 rush, 1 / 1 / 2 / 0 rec)

Given a favorable matchup, Ronnie Hillman responded with his best game of the season against the Chicago Bears. He was able to consistently pick his way through traffic on carries between the tackles, and used his speed to bounce a couple seemingly no-hope carries outside and reach the corner. Hillman logged his third 100-yard rushing game of the season, but most impressively did it with a long gain of just 15 yards. Hillman also performed well in short yardage, with his biggest blemish being a failed conversion on 4th-and-1 from the 2 yard line; even on this, Hillman deserves a pass, as Brock Osweiler accidentally tripped him while giving the handoff and Hillman was unable to recover before the defense closed in.

2015 Week 10 vs KC (11 / 42 / 1 rush, 4 / 2 / 9 / 0 rec)

Ronnie Hillman maintained his grip on the starting job against Kansas City, and even saw a larger role than he'd seen all season. Hillman played the majority of Denver's offensive snaps and dominated the workload with 15 carries and targets compared to just three for backup C.J. Anderson. While he struggled to gain any consistent yardage behind an offensive line that couldn't open any holes, Hillman did have a few nice runs when he could gain a crease. Seven of Hillman's runs, though, gained two yards or fewer, (including a 1-yard touchdown plunge late in the game). Hillman also split out wide and earned a target on 3rd-and-5, but pressure arrived early, the ball was thrown too far inside, and Hillman couldn't adjust in time to make the reception.

2015 Week 9 vs IND (7 / 1 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)

For the second straight week after earning the starting job, Ronnie Hillman struggled to play through contact and was outplayed by his backfield-mate, C.J. Anderson. Hillman lost yardage on three of his seven carries and routinely left Denver stranded in 3rd-and-long situations. The speedy back, overly reliant on the home run, found himself instead striking out at every opportunity against a surprisingly active Colts' defensive front.

2015 Week 8 vs GB (19 / 60 / 2 rush, 2 / 1 / -5 / 0 rec)

Coming out of the bye, Denver decided to reward Ronnie Hillman for his early-season work with the starting job. For all practical purposes, this meant very little for Hillman's role- he still split carries down the middle with C.J. Anderson, but instead of coming off the bench on the first drive, he started on the field to begin with. Despite the misleadingly low yards per carry average, Hillman used his speed to gain the corner on several runs, including his second touchdown in which he danced through traffic at the line and then outran defenders at the second level to the corner of the end zone. Hillman also showed off a bit of power, slamming into the line to convert a 3rd-and-1 and tunneling under contact to sneak into the end zone on his first touchdown. All-in-all, it was a positive game, marred only by the fact that C.J. Anderson looked dramatically improved from his early-season form and made a strong case for more carries going forward.

2015 Week 6 vs CLE (20 / 111 / 0 rush, 5 / 3 / 4 / 0 rec)

Ronnie Hillman did not start the game against the Cleveland Browns, but it was apparent that the coaching staff was determined to work him into the rotation early and often. Hillman was on the field by Denver's 3rd offensive snap, and split the first half of action roughly 50/50 with fellow running back C.J. Anderson. Hillman's production was inconsistent as the line was unable to open clean holes, but when something was there, Hillman's speed helped him make the most of it, and his playing time increased in the second half. If there was one flaw in Hillman's game, it's that he continues to provide little in the passing game; one of Peyton Manning's three interceptions came on a pass that hit Hillman in both hands, but which he failed to bring in.

2015 Week 5 vs OAK (7 / 21 / 0 rush, 2 / 1 / 5 / 0 rec)

Ronnie Hillman's role continued to expand against the Raiders, where he was still the second back on the field, but the rotation was nearly one of equals. Unfortunately for Hillman, it hardly seems to matter who is standing behind Peyton Manning at the snap, as the offensive line can't block anyone and neither running back can make anyone miss. Perhaps the lone bright spot, if it could be considered such, was that Denver has begun using Ronnie Hillman in the passing game more like C.J. Anderson; on Denver's first red zone drive, Hillman was split out wide and targeted in the end zone. But, as with all of his other opportunities in a frustrating afternoon, nothing came of it.

2015 Week 4 vs MIN (11 / 103 / 1 rush, 1 / 1 / 5 / 0 rec)

In post-game interviews after posting his third career 100-yard rushing game, Ronnie Hillman said "We had three bad weeks of running the ball and tonight we got it started. This week it was just me and C.J. got tired of everyone trying to tell us that we can't run the ball." Unfortunately for Ronnie, outside of a 72-yard gallop on a stretch play where he beat every defender to the corner and then ran to daylight, that simply wasn't the case, as Denver's backs combined for 73 yards on their other 21 carries, a 3.48 per-carry average that was inflated by several draws against soft fronts in long yardage. Hillman's long gain was more than Denver had rushed for in any of its first three games this season, and it demonstrated perfectly why he's such an important part of Denver's rushing rotation. the rest of his afternoon showed why all of Denver's running backs have struggled, and will continue to struggle, until Denver's offensive line can begin opening holes with any consistency and keeping opposing defenders out of the backfield.

2015 Week 3 vs DET (7 / 13 / 1 rush, 1 / 1 / 3 / 0 rec)

For a brief moment, after injuries to C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson in the first two quarters, it looked as if Ronnie Hillman might be the only running back remaining on Denver's active roster against the Lions. Anderson's sideline examination after a punishing hit ruled out a possible concussion, though, and Hillman split duties in the second half. Neither back was able to create any room to run against Detroit, with Hillman earning under two yards per carry. Hillman did score the team's only rushing touchdown on a 1-yard plunge where he managed to get small and plow through a slight crease at the goal line.

2015 Week 2 vs KC (9 / 34 / 0 rush, 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)

Nine carries for 34 yards is rarely cause for celebration, and his primary competition was nursing an injury, but Ronnie Hillman once again looked like the better back in Denver's rotation. With an overmatched offensive line, the holes Denver opened for its running game were often fleeting, and Hillman's speed better enabled him to reach them before they all-too-quickly closed again. In practice, this meant that he still got tackled at the line of scrimmage as often, but in the rare instances where something was there, he could squeeze out a couple extra yards before getting swarmed under. Anderson will have a long week to get healthy again, but Hillman is at least making a case that he deserves a bigger piece of the rushing pie.

2015 Week 1 vs BAL (12 / 41 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)

As anticipated, Hillman parlayed a strong preseason showing into a job as a regular change of pace in the regular season. Hillman demonstrated strong running both between the tackles and outside of them. Hillman generally looked like the best back on the field, and was in the backfield for Denver's best drive, on which he gained three of Denver's four total rushing first downs of the day.


Latest News

Broncos | Different role for C.J. Anderson (Mon Apr 25, 02:17 PM) - Denver Broncos RB C.J. Anderson said his role will be different in 2016 because he will control more when he's off the field, as opposed to alternating so much with RB Ronnie Hillman and others.

Our View: Anderson has been paid like a top RB, and the Broncos are expecting top-level production. He just needs to stay healthy because we've seen him be productive at the end of each of the last two seasons. Last year, Anderson's early season was derailed by an ankle/turf toe injury he suffered in Week 1. If healthy, Anderson is a three-down back who can at least be a RB2 with RB1 upside in the Kubiak system.
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Broncos | More on Ronnie Hillman deal (Wed Apr 20, 06:51 PM) - Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman's one-year, $2 million deal comes with a base salary of $1.8 million, including $400,000 fully guaranteed. A $100,000 signing bonus and $100,000 workout bonus were also part of the deal.

Our View: It's a good deal for the Broncos and the best one for Hillman, though he did have his best season as a Bronco. He's a role player and likely just an RB3 unless CJ Anderson stumbles early in the season.
link to story   

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