Peyton Hillis Will Not Be The Guy For The Browns

By Tim Naida

2011 is on the doorstep. And you know what comes with new years: predictions. Here’s mine: Peyton Hillis will not be THE guy for the Browns next year. I don’t even believe he will be the starter.

Juggernaut (There’s a million nicknames out there for him; I like this one) has had a monster season. 1,600+ total yards and 13 TDs is nothing to dismiss. Without him, the Browns are probably competing with Carolina for that top draft slot. Even the most delusional Browns fan can’t argue that they could’ve beaten the Patriots without him. #40 has become that jersey that you see on every fan and every rack.

I didn’t get one. I don’t need it hanging with my Charlie Frye (pause for the mocking of the writer) and Kellen Winslow jerseys. I think it could end up there for Browns fans though. There are a few factors against him. The big one: fumbling. He’s fumbled eight times this season, losing five. The eight fumbles ties him for 4th in the league, the fumbles lost 2nd. Those aren’t the kind of numbers a coach like Eric Mangini (or any coach for that matter) put up with. Hillis may have been benched months ago, if not for the fact that the Browns have no depth at running back. Hillis could’ve fumbled twice a game and been a better option than the poo-poo platter of Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell.

His running style doesn’t lend himself to being a feature back either. The shelf life of an NFL running back is usually 30-years old (Hillis is 24), but those are the guys that avoid contact. That he has made it through a season playing tailback like a fullback is a testament to his juggernautliness. I figure he’d be done eight games in, and he has more than proven me wrong. He’ll be a year older next year though, and the speculation is that the season is headed to 18 games. That can’t bode well for a back that goes through people rather than around them.

His style seems to have taken its toll. Since the Carolina game, Hillis hasn’t gotten off like he did early in the season. On the season he’s averaging 109.2 total yards per game, but 79.2 over the last four games, and no touchdowns. Only one of his five 100-yard games was in that span (Buffalo, worst run-D in the league), but he also had a momentum-killing fumble in that loss.

2011 should also mark the return (or debut depending on how you look at it) of Montario Hardesty. I don’t have a lot of faith in Hardesty, as he’s been injury prone going back to his high school days. Still, he gives them another option, and the Browns thought highly enough of him to make him 2nd rounder. Plenty of guys in the NFL are displaced by high draft picks. Pulling Hillis for Hardesty wouldn’t exactly be revolutionary. It would also be ludicrous if this team didn’t address the wide receivers, so a more balanced attack wouldn’t need Hillis to be the team’s #2 receiver. They also have their Super Bowl in April, where they could take another back. This is Cleveland after all. If it ain’t turnover it ain’t trying.

Speaking of turnover, don’t forget the coach. Mangini should be out. I won’t spend a lot of time on this one because it all depends on the coach, but that could be another factor working against Hillis. Every coach, GM, etc. likes bringing in their own guys.

With all this working against him, I don’t see Hillis playing Superman again next year. But take comfort in this: My last prediction was that Lebron would never leave Cleveland. Happy New Year!

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5 Comments

  1. I think that if we hire jon gruden then Hillis stays and McCoy is the starter. Anyone else aside form Holmgrem and Browns fans may be in for a lot more change than we expected after the wins against NO and NE. Good article, hopefully we can keep a fan favorite and prolong his shelf life with hardesty and bell who actually looked like the back he did in NO on Sunday. I also agree that the air attack may be the biggest factor in his shelf life- we need a WR who can take a defender from the box.

  2. I’m curious… he may be the 4 leading fumbler in the league…. but is that based on the ratio of carries to fumbles? or just total of fumbles?

  3. Well i never even heard of you before i read this blog…now i wish i never did because well,i agree everyone is entitled to their own opinion but this sounds alot like the i want attention or 15 minutes of local fame blog.Especially with even mentioning Hardesty’s name with possibly starting next yr.Besides his few fumbles there is no reason he cant succeed if you take a look at his age and his body.Also factor in IF we can actually get a passing game to take away some of the hits he takes and a better right side of the line (including center becasue mack is overrated) .So seeing this is the last blog il read from you…good luck

  4. nicely written hopper

  5. I do not agree at all. Hillis has shown that he can be a featured back in the NFL. The fumbles have been an issue, but that is something he can work on. Hardesty will be a good backup, and will be able to take some of the burden off of Hillis. I think that Daboll is hindering HIllis performance by running such a predictable offense. Most of the teams we play know exactly when we are going to run the ball. Hillis has been running against 8 and 9 guys in the box most of the year. If we can get a coach or offensive coordinator that can actually develop a passing game, then Hillis will have even more success next season.


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