ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Terrell Davis, whose legs powered the Denver Broncos to their two Super Bowl wins in the 1990s, got his first up-close look of the season at the team's 2013 models, including rookie running back Montee Ball Friday.
Safe to say, Davis liked what he saw.
"He's a big back like me, he's also a lot quicker than I was,'' Davis said. "He's got great lateral movement, spin move, great power, nobody's going to bring him down on the first try."
Then again, with Davis looking in on the workout, Ronnie Hillman showed why he still won't be easy to displace as the starter in the backfield. At one point, Hillman took a well-designed draw play through the starting defense for just the kind of long-distance impact scoring run the Broncos want to be a part of the offense.
"I don't know who I would pick right now, I don't have that coaches' hat on," Davis said, adding, "They both have shown what they can do with the ball."
In that light, fantasy football players should simply stock up on aspirin now for what will be a weekly headache solving the riddle as to who will get the carries. It's a riddle the Broncos don't much care about, however, because they are looking only at the bottom line.
"We want to be in a situation where anybody we put in can have an impact in the offense and do what we're supposed to do,'' said running backs coach Eric Studesville. "We have a guy in that room in Knowshon who has led this team in rushing."
Knowshon Moreno, who currently sits at No. 3 on the depth chart, did lead the Broncos in rushing in 2009 and 2010.
The Broncos are still looking for more consistency from Ball and Hillman in pass protection, and the player who gets that figured out soonest will get those snaps once the games count. Or as Studesville put it, "If you can't keep up with the quarterback, you can't be in there with him."
It's why Moreno and Jacob Hester, who are the most reliable in those situations at the moment, are still options in some of the specialty packages on offense.
"Most running backs can run, most running backs can catch, but blocking is the key," Davis said. "If you can block, you'll be in the game, you'll be the guy that's that complete back."
In other news:
Defensive end Derek Wolfe missed Friday's practice because of an illness, and could be a question mark for Saturday's scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Malik Jackson, who played sparingly on defense as a rookie in 2012 (113 snaps last season on D, or 7.1 per game), worked in Wolfe's spot at times Friday.
In Saturday's scrimmage the Broncos will run 36 plays in full-team situations, with 12 plays of first-team offense against second-team defense, 12 plays of second-team offense against first-team defense and 12 plays of the third-team offense against the third-team defense.
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase said Friday he will call plays from the field this season, with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp up in the press box. Gase believes the Broncos can save a precious few seconds before each snap by having Gase talking to the quarterback from the sideline instead of simply making the call from the booth that someone else has to send in to Peyton Manning.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (ankle), defensive tackle Sylvester Williams (knee) and tight end Jacob Tamme (thigh) were among the players held out of Friday's practice. Broncos coach John Fox said that Williams, who has not practiced since Monday, "is getting a lot closer."
Montee Ball on meeting Terrell Davis: "I've been thinking about this moment since I was 7 years old ... it's crazy right now for me."
Guard/center Ryan Lilja, who signed with the Broncos on Thursday, took part in his first full practice with the team Friday. Lilja had knee and toe surgeries earlier in the offseason. And on his first day in shoulder pads, he had some early bobbles on snaps to backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, as several hit the ground during individual drills.
The Broncos like Jackson, who played some defensive end at the University of Tennessee, as an inside pass rusher. Wolfe often moves into the defensive tackle spot when the Broncos face longer-yardage situations, so they need some of their defensive ends to be able to hold up on the interior when the team goes into the nickel or dime.
It's still waaaaaaaay early, but the rotations to watch will be at safety and running back, where the competition for playing time is the tightest. Also, the receivers after the top three -- Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker -- have to start sorting themselves out as well.
A special teamer to watch will be rookie wide receiver Quincy McDuffie. McDuffie has flashed some explosiveness in practice.
"Instead of me sending it in to somebody else, there is a little bit of a delay when that happens,'' Gase said. "I've been on the other end, as far as having to send it in with somebody else calling it, it gets a little bit dicey when [the play clock] gets down to about 19 seconds and you have to send them in."