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Running Back Competition 'Heating Up'

Posted Jul 31, 2013

As camp progresses, more and more running backs are making plays. And Ronnie Hillman said he's welcomed the competition.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Almost a week into training camp, position battles are in full swing.

Entering camp, one of the most anticipated competitions was at running back, and it hasn't disappointed.

The latest examples came during Wednesday's practice, when Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, Jeremiah Johnson and C.J. Anderson all broke free for big runs.

Virtually every running back on the roster has made plays in camp, and Hillman said he's loved it.

“You wouldn’t be playing this game if you didn’t welcome the competition," the second-year back said. "It’s a nice group of backs that we have right now and the competition is heating up when you get the pads on and you start picking up blitzes and running. (Coaches) start to evaluate (and) it puts an extra category on the evaluation of who potentially is going to get the first-team reps.”

As for his long, cutback run in Wednesday's team drills, Hillman joked that he didn't want to make the defense "look too bad," so he ran to the sideline at the end of the run instead of sprinting all the way to the end zone.

Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said on Saturday that Hillman has "done a good job" so far in camp, as he's looking for more "explosive runs" this season to help open up the passing game and put pressure on the defense.

In the same vein, one of the most important traits the coaches are looking for in the backs is their pass blocking ability. Hillman said that's an area of his game that he's constantly looking to improve, and Ball echoed those sentiments.

"Blocking is very important, especially since we all know who is back there," Ball said of quarterback Peyton Manning. "Give him time to throw the football and make some plays on the field.”

The rookie acknowledged that he missed a block in Wednesday's practice, but said that things are starting to come easier to him as camp progresses.

"One thing I was talking to the other running backs about is now it kind of seems like I’m not thinking as much coming out of the backfield," he said. "I’m kind of just reacting now, which is good and comes with film and experience."

"Today I finally made some plays and did some good things with my feet.”

As the running back competition begins to shake out, it's clear that picking up blitzers will be just as important in determining the starter as picking up first downs.

“As a group those guys have done a good job as far as stepping up and picking up protections," Gase said. "We’ve made some adjustments in our protections just to make sure we are sound in what we are doing, and I think these guys are taking to that."