Backfield Moving Forward

By Will Burge

One of the budding story lines in Berea is the dynamic between Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Before last week, there was only speculation whether Hardesty could handle the workload in an NFL game. No one knew whether or not he could be effective.

Due to an unexpected case of strep throat and an even more unexpected performance by Hardesty, the question now has to be asked: How do the Browns split their carries?

Coach Pat Shurmur said earlier this week that he would like to play both Hardesty and Hillis in the backfield at the same time more often. When pressed further, Shurmur said that he felt Hillis would be the fullback in those situations.

Instead of the usual mantra of “Peyton Hillis is our feature back and he will demand the majority of the carries” we are now hearing “Peyton Hillis is the feature back BUT how we split the carries between the backs will be determined upon game planning.

Make no mistake; Hillis will receive the bulk of the carries against Tennessee. He will again receive the bulk of the carries against Oakland. Each week, however, Hardesty’s carries will increase. If his production follows suite, the Browns will be facing some tough decisions.

Do they pay big money to a guy that may not even be the feature back of the future? Do they put their eggs in the basket of a second year pro that has a long history of injuries? Can they afford to pay Hillis big money to have him possibly be a glorified full back in years to come?

All of these questions are valid and no one knows the answers.

If Hardesty can carry a heavy workload and help spell Hillis throughout the game, the Browns offense is much more dangerous. Hardesty adds a big play dynamic which Hillis lacks. Teams would have to game plan for a battering ram type back AND a slash and cut back runner. The best offenses have both.

For now, Hillis remains “the guy” with Hardesty picking up the scraps. If Hardesty continues to impress, however, it will present a problem for the Browns. A problem they would absolutely love to have.

Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge

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1 Comment

  1. Mix ’em both and wear down the competition. The difference in carries will be no more than 5 no matter who starts. No big issue here.


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