Broncos QB Peyton Manning confirmed that RB Ronnie Hillman will get the start against the Jets in Week 6.
"Ronnie has played at different times, in different amounts, but when you're the starting back and running out there in pregame warm-ups as a starting back, it's a different hat that you wear," said Manning, who is but a quarter of the way through his third season in Denver. "There's no question he has a burst that is pretty unique when he gets the ball in his hands. It's our job to give him space."
Initially, the Broncos thought Montee Ball was headed for injured reserve with a designation to return after eight games. That's why the team brought in veteran running backs Mikel Leshoure and LaRod Stephens-Howling for workouts Tuesday.
But a magnetic resonance imaging exam offered hope Ball might miss only a month or so with his groin strain. The Broncos added running back depth Wednesday by signing former Oakland Raider Jeremy Stewart to their practice squad, but otherwise the team is planning on going with Hillman, C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson until further notice. Thompson, a rookie, sat out practice Wednesday with a sore left knee.
"You can't do it with just one back in today's game, so we expect C.J. to do his job, Juwan to be ready," Manning said.
We expect that Anderson and Thompson will be in the mix, especially if Hillman struggles early, which seems likely given the state of the Bronco running game (not good) and the quality of the Jets' rush defense (very good, though Branden Oliver torched it in Week 5). Owners should keep in mind that Hillman has had fumbling problems in the past, and HC John Fox is not afraid to bench a player if he can't keep hold of the ball. Consider Hillman a low-end RB2/flex type this week.