Understand, Ronnie Hillman was a special case.
Had Ronnie Hillman not spent all of last season with the Broncos, had he not spent the offseason and training camp with the team, Denver general manager John Elway would not have placed a waiver claim on the running back.
But as Elway and head coach Gary Kubiak considered adding depth to their running back position this late in the season, Hillman only made sense. There would be no learning curve for him. And he’s an NFL pro for five seasons while current starter Devontae Booker is a rookie and backup Kapri Bibbs has 15 career carries.
That Hillman also has a speed element to his skill set wouldn’t have hurt.
What hurt was Mike McCoy’s San Diego Chargers had a higher spot than Denver on the NFL waiver claim ladder so Hillman was awarded to the Broncos’ division rival Tuesday.
“John and I talked about it,’’ Kubiak said. “We’ve been operating with two halfbacks, with (fullback/running back) Juwan (Thompson) being our third in a lot of ways. Ronnie knew all our stuff, so we thought it was worth a shot. Obviously, it didn’t work out. We wish him all the best. We’ll keep going with where we’re at. We just thought it was worth an opportunity.”
Through 10 games, C.J. Anderson remains the Broncos’ leading rusher with 437 yards on 4.0 yards per carry, even though he’s missed the last three games with a knee injury that will sideline him at least until the end of the regular season.
Providing everyone stays healthy, the Broncos are planning to finish the season with Booker (396 yards, 3.8 yards per carry) and Bibbs (58 yards, 3.9), Thompson and rookie fullback Andy Janovich.
A modest running goal for the Broncos come their game Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs: Booker pass Anderson for the team rushing lead.
For all the blame that has been pointed at the Broncos’ offensive line, Kubiak and his coaching staff believe the running backs can get more after contact.
“That was a big thing with Book and Kapri,’’ Kubiak said. “We tried to show them. Things aren’t always nice in this league. Those holes are clogged up, you’re going to get hit and people are going to be there. You have to make things happen on your own sometimes. We’re trying to really show them times where we would say that we went down too easy, too many arm tackles. We’re trying to challenge them as players. If we block something for 3 or 4, they need to go get 5 or 6. That’s the nature of being a good back in this league. I try to present that to them.”