Many, many thanks to Jon Heath of Broncos Zone for providing Dawg Pound Daily with such an extensive background on the newly acquired Peyton Hillis. I’ve given him my final thoughts on Brady Quinn, which you can find over at Broncos Zone. Here are Jon’s thoughts on Hillis and Quinn:
I don’t think Browns fans know what they are really getting in Peyton Hillis, so I’m here to enlighten you all. In 2008, Mike Shanahan drafted Hillis in the seventh round (he was the 227th overall draft pick). Hillis was the starting fullback at Arkansas for four seasons. While a Razorback, he blocked for Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden, and current Dallas Cowboy Felix Jones. In college, Hillis was a very versatile player (similar to Josh Cribbs) that attracted Shanahan and the Broncos to him. His versatility carried over into the NFL, as his first career start was at FB against the Raiders in 2008. In the game, with Hillis blocking, Jay Cutler threw for 300 yards, and the Broncos rushed for 131 yards. The Broncos won the game 41-14.
As the season went on, Hillis was used more and more. In 2008, the Broncos placed 8 runningbacks on the injured reserve. After the Broncos last back on the roster (Ryan Torain) went down with an injury, the Broncos turned to the fullback. The Broncos won the game, and Hillis was named the starter the next week against the Falcons. In the game he rushed for 44 yards, and 2 touchdowns. His first career 100-yard game came against the Jets, on November 30th, and he rushed for 129 yards and a score. In 2008, Hillis only started in 6 games, but still managed to rush for 343 yards (he lead the team) and scored 5 rushing TD’s and one receiving touchdown to go along with his 179 receiving yards. His season ended when he suffered a torn right hamstring after making an acrobatic catch against the Chiefs in Week 14. It broke Broncos fans’ hearts, and many believe (myself included) the Broncos would have made the playoffs if not for that injury. It was a sad way for a season to end for a rising rookie star.
In 2009, Josh McDaniels came to down. In the draft he selected Knowshon Moreno (whom I’m a big fan of) and in the off-season he signed free agents Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan. This pushed Hillis to 4th on the RB depth chart. Peyton may have gotten a chance to beat out Spencer Larsen for the starting fullback spot; that is, if McDaniel’s offense used fullbacks, which it rarely ever does. With a new coach, coaching staff, and new players it was like being a rookie all over again for Hillis. In Week 3 Hillis fumbled on a kick return, and that put him in McDaniels’ dog house. (You have to understand McDaniels – against the Redskins last year, Buckhalter fumbled in the first quarter, and never entered the game again.) All season long Broncos fans screamed for Peyton Hillis, especially because the Broncos were struggling in short yardage running downs. But McDaniels did what he thought best, not what the fans wanted. In 2009, Hillis only rushed 13 times for 54 yards and a touchdown, while adding 4 catches for 19 yards. Hillis’ stats dropped, but his skill hasn’t. He is only 24-years-old and is very versatile. If the Browns put him at fullback or even tailback, they’ll get above and beyond whatever they ask of Hillis.
That’s enough of my sales pitch, just watch his highlights. He lets his skills on the field do all his talking. I’m happy to see Hillis go to a team where he’ll get more playing time. I’m also excited about the compensation that the Broncos got for him.
I’m very excited about Brady Quinn for the Broncos, and while you Browns fans may have already labeled him a bust, I believe he brings a lot to the table for Denver. Quinn played under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame in college, and Weis had connections to McDaniels from New England. Brady also fits McDaniels QB-style. I like to look at what Josh McDaniels did with Matt Cassel, in MCD’s offense, and, when surrounded by talent, Cassel thrived. In Denver, with Brandon Marshall, Knowshon Moreno, Ryan Clady and the rest I think Brady Quinn could transform into a 2010 version of the 2008 Matt Cassel. Obviously, Kyle Orton will start the season for the Broncos this year, but I also believe Brady Quinn is the Broncos future. His time is coming in Denver.
To wrap things up, I’d like to say thank you Cleveland [for Brady], and you’re very welcome [for Hillis].