DENVER (CBS4) – As running back Montee Ball recovers from appendicitis, the Broncos are looking at their options in the offensive backfield. Thursday’s preseason game offered them ample opportunity.
Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson are expected to fill time with the first team before Ball returns, possibly for the Sept. 7 season opener against Indianapolis.
But after Anderson suffered a concussion on his first and only rushing attempt against Seattle, the Broncos running game — during the preseason, at least — became a little cloudier.
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After the game, Coach John Fox didn’t seem overly worried with the team’s depth. But he said Anderson’s concussion is concerning.
“It is something that is not going to be long term,” he said, “but something we will take serious until he is cleared.”
The Broncos gained 116 yards on 26 rushing attempts Thursday night for a healthy 4.5 yards per rush.
Juwan Thompson led the group with 59 yards on six carries for a superb 9.8 average. Kapri Bibbs added 18 yards on four carries, Ronnie Hillman 15 on six and Brennan Clay two yards on three. Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler scrambled six times for 17 yards, including a 15-yard dash.
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Hillman and Bibbs scored touchdowns — Hillman on a 1-yard dive for Denver’s first score and Bibbs on a 3-yard run to start the third quarter.
“That was probably one of the easiest touchdown runs there will probably be this year. The offensive line just got off on the ball and they made it real easy for me. I just followed them in,” Hillman said. “It’s good to get out there and got the jitters out — get your first carry, first hit, first everything. Now it’s football and now it’s just fine tune the small things and get better every day.”
The Broncos collected eight rushing first downs in the 21-16 victory.
“(The preseason) gives them an opportunity,” Fox said about the running backs. “Ronnie Hillman got more opportunities with the Montee Ball surgery. Juwan Thompson played well along with C.J. while he was healthy.”
Bibbs, a standout for the CSU Rams, said the competition is fraternal and friendly.
“We definitely congratulate each other when we’re out on the field,” he said after the game. “We don’t have to say, ‘Good job out there’ because you can see it on our faces when we come to the sideline — we’re already hugging each other, patting each other on the butt.”
Ball is expected to gain first-team duties when he returns.
“He is doing great and he’ll be back fairly shortly,” Fox said about Ball, who rushed for 559 yards on 120 carries with the Broncos in 2013. He scored four touchdowns and lost two fumbles in his rookie year.
– Written by Tim Skillern for CBSDenver.com
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