ENGLEWOOD, Colo. –After the Broncos turned the ball over four times in Seattle, it's no surprise that ball security has been a point of emphasis this week in practice.
That has been especially true for the running back corps, as protecting the ball and protecting the quarterback are two of their most important responsibilities.
"(Fumbles have) been a huge point of emphasis for us this offseason because the fumbles we had early in the season last year—that was one of the main factors of why we started off as slowly as we did," Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said. "So this has been a big emphasis, and for us to have three fumbles in the first half (at Seattle) was totally unacceptable.
"We've been working on it again, and the point of emphasis has to be that we cannot turn the ball over."
The running back unit is fairly young as it stands right now. Ronnie Hillman is entering his second year and Montee Ball his first. Knowshon Moreno is the most experienced back, as he will be playing his fifth NFL season in 2013.
Gase complimented Moreno for the way he has helped the younger backs along – particularly explaining things in terms of pass protection. But there isn't much he can do to help them actually keep the football in their hands.
"Right now, the guys we have running the ball are the guys we have running the ball," Gase said. "And their job is to make sure they hold onto the ball, and that's what they're going to do."
Gase also said that while protecting the quarterback is important, holding on to the ball is "equally as important." Hillman dropped the ball twice in the preseason game at Seattle last week – he lost only one, but it was particularly painful as it went for six points the other way.
That is the sort of thing that Gase is looking to avoid.
"The ball security – when the ball is in your hand, the ball cannot be on the ground," Gase said. "What happened the other day? I'm telling you – unacceptable. It's not going to happen. It's not going to happen anymore.
"We're not going to put the ball on the ground, or else they're not going to carry it."
But Gase still thinks the young backs are making progress and are benefitting from what he described as a "great push" from the offensive line.
"I think we're making strides towards what we want, as far as the outside zone working for us and mixing in the inside zone," Gase said.
"We're going to keep working on some of our gap-scheme stuff, and eventually we're going to pop one of those. So right now the running game is headed in the direction we want it to."