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Old 06-09-2009, 01:45 AM   #1
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Default Mr. Versatility: Broncos' Hillis

Fullback catching coach's eye as runner, blocker, receiver
By Jim Armstrong
The Denver Post

What, you think Waldo is hard to find? Try tracking down Peyton Hillis at the Broncos' offseason passing camp.

One minute, he's split wide, a la Dallas Clark. The next minute, he's tangling with linebackers as a fullback in two-back formations. And when he finishes that drill, he swings over to tailback in single-back sets.

Oh, and did we mention he's all the rage on special teams? Or that he believes, in his heart of hearts, that he could play linebacker on Sunday afternoons?

Hillis isn't the Broncos' most valuable player, but, with apologies to fullback/linebacker Spencer Larsen, he may well be their most versatile.

So, Peyton, are you a fullback, a tailback or a receiver? Or are you a man for all seasons?

"I don't really know what I am at this point," Hillis said. "I think they're just filling me into different roles to see what I can do. They really haven't come up to me and said, 'You're this or you're that.' They're just kind of putting me in as a piece to the puzzle and seeing what happens."

Most running backs who spent time in the Broncos' backfield, circa 2008, have moved on — Selvin Young, Andre Hall, Tatum Bell and Michael Pittman among them. But Hillis remains, and new coach Josh McDaniels likes what he sees. The challenge is to figure out where to use him.

"We're going to use every skill he has," McDaniels said. "He does a lot of things well. He can run the ball as a single back or he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can block in two-back sets or he can split out wide. He's got great hands and he's a very tough runner to bring down when you give him the ball. So he'll do a lot of different things for us.

"As we tell our players, they all create their own roles. And he's certainly done a good job of taking what we're giving him and doing it very well."

For all the new faces and endless possibilities in the Broncos' backfield, this much is certain: McDaniels didn't use the 12th pick in the draft on
Know-shon Moreno so Moreno could be a backup. He figures to emerge as the starting tailback, with Hillis joining him at fullback in two-back sets.

But what if Moreno gets hurt? Given what happened last season, it's a question that has to be asked.

You remember last season. Hillis began the year as the starting fullback, but, after an injury epidemic in the backfield, he wound up the No. 1 tailback. He led the team with 343 yards rushing, including 129 against the Jets, before a torn hamstring ended his season after 13 games.

By that point, Hillis had become something of a cult hero in Denver. Talk about your unlikely success stories. Who knew a 255-pound fullback drafted in the seventh round would average 5 yards a carry as the Broncos' starting tailback?

"It was exciting," Hillis said. "Last year proved that anything can happen in this league. I had a tough career in college. When I came to the NFL, I was just trying to make the team. If it never happens again, at least I proved that I can run with the best, that I can play ball. That's what means the most to me."

Hillis has dropped down to a chiseled 245 pounds, but it doesn't figure to get him a lot of playing time at tailback — not with Moreno and two other newcomers, Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan, on the roster. Doesn't matter, says Hillis. He has come to enjoy this multitasking thing.

"It's all about how I can help the team," he said. "I want people to see I can do a variety of roles, not just tailback. Slot me out, dot me in the I (formation), put me on special teams. . . . Wherever they put me, I'll be happy. As far as my athletic ability, I can pretty much do it all. You can put me at linebacker and I'll do a good job."

http://www.denverpost.com/broncos/ci_12549606
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Old 06-09-2009, 01:50 AM   #2
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"It's all about how I can help the team," he said. "I want people to see I can do a variety of roles, not just tailback. Slot me out, dot me in the I (formation), put me on special teams. . . . Wherever they put me, I'll be happy. As far as my athletic ability, I can pretty much do it all. You can put me at linebacker and I'll do a good job."

****ing fantastic, and does anyone doubt it?

I've said for a while now that Hillis reminds me of Terrell Davis a bit in just that exact sense. I always said back in the day that you could have moved TD to LB and he would have been a Pro Bowler. Hillis just seems the same to me. Different package, but the dude is just like Terrell in that he looks like a born football player.

I still think he's a great 1st down RB option, but we now have a legitimate #1 RB candidate on our roster, so we'll see how it plays out. I do think he'll get carries, and I just wonder how McD is going to keep the ball out of his hands when he's running over, around and through people like he did last year.
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Old 06-09-2009, 02:31 AM   #3
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I don't care what round somebody is drafted in, it's your play on the field and results that earn you a spot and keep your spot. I think TD proved that point beyond a doubt. There's no doubt Moreno will get his shot and he truly looks like a special talent. Most teams do adopt the 2 running back system now in order to keep their best backs fresh and healthy. Hillis will get his touches for sure. He might get a few less carries but I think he will be used more in the short passing game then last year. I hope Moreno kicks some ass but when you see Hillis out there just picking all the right lanes, knocking guys on their ass and moving the chains, it's hard to take him out of the game. And now that he appears to be more cut and lean, I bet his speed has picked up a bit also. It's gonna be fun to watch.

I'd sorta like to see him actually take the #1 spot early in the season. Moreno will still get plenty of touches but I just think Hillis gives the offense more diversity when he is out there. I'm sure he catches as good if not better then Moreno, no doubt he blocks better and is a larger man who can handle blitzing LB's better, has a different running style but still a very effective one that moves the chains and picks up chunks of yards at a time. And now that he has lost 10 pounds of fat, I betcha he's not the much slower then Moreno. And there's something to be said about the bigger backs who just pound on a defense all game long. I've heard many defenders say it just wears you down faster when your always trying to bring down bigger and stronger backs. I'd like to see the Broncos go that direction. Pound away, pound away and then pound away some more. Then bring in Moreno for like 6 carries in a row and let him work against a worn out defense, he'll break some long ones.

But something inside me just wants to see the Broncos turn ANOTHER 7th rounder into a starting RB who shreds defenses.

Last edited by ZONA; 06-09-2009 at 02:43 AM..
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Old 06-09-2009, 02:59 AM   #4
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I can't see either Jordan or Buckhalter being more effective runners than this kid. He should get some carries and emerge the #2 tailback by preseason game 3 IMO...hopefully he can spell Moreno and pick up maybe 12 carries a game.
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Old 06-09-2009, 03:35 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by footstepsfrom#27 View Post
I can't see either Jordan or Buckhalter being more effective runners than this kid. He should get some carries and emerge the #2 tailback by preseason game 3 IMO...hopefully he can spell Moreno and pick up maybe 12 carries a game.
i'd like to see him touch the ball around 12-15 times a game. not necessarily all on runs, but on screens, from the TE position or the slot.

i think that is where he would be an incredible mismatch for a Defense. split out into the slot. he is far too strong for a Corner to cover him, because once he catches the ball, he will just ragdoll a Corner out of his way.

move a LB over to cover him and he is faster than the LB and just as strong and in many cases stronger than a LB.

most safeties don't have the necessary size and strength to bring him down.
lined up as a slot receiver creates so much of a mismatch that if he is doubled it means Royal, or Marshall are playing single coverage or are basically wide open and Moreno is forgotten about in the backfield.

Hillis is a unique weapon that just can cause a defensive coordinator migraines trying to figure out how to play him.
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Old 06-09-2009, 03:44 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by footstepsfrom#27 View Post
I can't see either Jordan or Buckhalter being more effective runners than this kid. He should get some carries and emerge the #2 tailback by preseason game 3 IMO...hopefully he can spell Moreno and pick up maybe 12 carries a game.
It not always about running the ball. The edge usually comes down to those runners that can also pass block from different sets.
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Old 06-09-2009, 05:31 AM   #7
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"It's all about how I can help the team," he said. "I want people to see I can do a variety of roles, not just tailback. Slot me out, dot me in the I (formation), put me on special teams. . . . Wherever they put me, I'll be happy. As far as my athletic ability, I can pretty much do it all. You can put me at linebacker and I'll do a good job."

****ing fantastic, and does anyone doubt it?

Not for one second. This guy would return a kick for 15 yards, then catch a pass for 15 yards, then catch a pass for 15 yards, and grab water for his teammates during the TV Timeout. I would have been most bummed if McD had moved him.

I've said for a while now that Hillis reminds me of Terrell Davis a bit in just that exact sense. I always said back in the day that you could have moved TD to LB and he would have been a Pro Bowler. Hillis just seems the same to me. Different package, but the dude is just like Terrell in that he looks like a born football player.

To me he has a better skillset than TD. Better hands, speed, size, etc. I don't know that he has the same vision that TD had... but I get what you're saying. TD would have willed himself to be a strong player no matter the position which is exactly what Hillis is doing now. I can't express enough how good Hillis' hands are. Talk about a guy that is very natural catching the ball.

I still think he's a great 1st down RB option, but we now have a legitimate #1 RB candidate on our roster, so we'll see how it plays out. I do think he'll get carries, and I just wonder how McD is going to keep the ball out of his hands when he's running over, around and through people like he did last year.
I'm wondering the same thing. Good problem to have though and we'll most likely be able to keep both guys (Moreno and Hillis) fresh throughout the season. Not saying that they are as good as Williams and Stewart (The Panther's RB Connection) but I think they will have similar roles and likely similar success.

Good post Popps
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Old 06-09-2009, 06:52 AM   #8
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despite all the hoo-haa around Jay, there were only two lesser-known stories about McDaniels that really had me concerned: 1) the cutting of Mike Leach for 'his' long-snapper, and 2) putting Hillis on the trading-block.

I now see that 1) was a case of upgrading an important position, NOT cronyism, and that 2) was either a false rumour or something that McDaniels has talked himself out of one way or another. It certainly doesn't sound like he's going to be traded now.... (although nothing would surprise me this offseason...)

I know that we were all hoping he would be the #1 tailback going into camp, but I have to say I'm not sure I don't prefer him to remain our secret weapon....Moreno should emerge as a true feature-back, and Hillis may only make the squad as a FB, but when he's back there teams are really not going to know for sure what the hell he's going to do - and that's the kind of confusion an uncertainty that creates yards and points.....
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Old 06-09-2009, 07:22 AM   #9
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PEYTON is the man. Rememebr when he said he can throw the ball farther than Jay Cutler?
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Old 06-09-2009, 07:54 AM   #10
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Given that there are news reports of Hillis lining up at TE, WR, FB and HB, I don't think there is any shortage of things he could do, if he could master the system. Remember how insanely productive Hillis was last year catching the ball as a pseudo-WR since we were down to just Marshall in the Miami game.

I don't think it's a insane stretch to think that Hillis, if he is given a starting offensive role, might be leading the Broncos at the break in terms of all purpose yards, even if he does not have the starting RB job.
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Old 06-09-2009, 07:58 AM   #11
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I think Correll and Mareno will be the 1-2 punch with Hillis as the short yardage and another option but my question is if Hillis is playing H-Back then where does that leave Scheffler??
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Old 06-09-2009, 08:29 AM   #12
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Old 06-09-2009, 08:34 AM   #13
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Hillis will be our Kevin Faulk. He is a similar player, but with more upside.
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Old 06-09-2009, 08:58 AM   #14
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I'm imagining McD putting in a 2 TE, 2 RB set - Graham & Scheffler, Moreno & Hillis, plus Marshall to boot. This looks like a power running formation, and it really is. But there are some really good passing options here too... Scheffler can stretch the field, Hillis can split out wide, and Moreno can either be a good dump-off option or he can stay in and block. Out of a true power formation, Orton could have up to five viable targets, with Graham as the weakest receiver. The pressure this could put on a defense is scary.
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Old 06-09-2009, 09:04 AM   #15
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Quote:
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I'm imagining McD putting in a 2 TE, 2 RB set - Graham & Scheffler, Moreno & Hillis, plus Marshall to boot. This looks like a power running formation, and it really is. But there are some really good passing options here too... Scheffler can stretch the field, Hillis can split out wide, and Moreno can either be a good dump-off option or he can stay in and block. Out of a true power formation, Orton could have up to five viable targets, with Graham as the weakest receiver. The pressure this could put on a defense is scary.
It is scary because all five Players can catch the ball, despite being a power read for defensive coordinators calling plays. In most cases, they would play base defense ensuring a LB would have to cover Scheffler, Hillis, or Moreno in man coverage or at best creating a huge seam with those guys in a zone caverage scheme. God forbid they try and defend it out of the nickle as they would run the hell out of them in most cases.
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Old 06-09-2009, 09:32 AM   #16
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despite all the hoo-haa around Jay, there were only two lesser-known stories about McDaniels that really had me concerned: 1) the cutting of Mike Leach for 'his' long-snapper, and 2) putting Hillis on the trading-block.

I now see that 1) was a case of upgrading an important position, NOT cronyism, and that 2) was either a false rumour or something that McDaniels has talked himself out of one way or another. It certainly doesn't sound like he's going to be traded now.... (although nothing would surprise me this offseason...)

I know that we were all hoping he would be the #1 tailback going into camp, but I have to say I'm not sure I don't prefer him to remain our secret weapon....Moreno should emerge as a true feature-back, and Hillis may only make the squad as a FB, but when he's back there teams are really not going to know for sure what the hell he's going to do - and that's the kind of confusion an uncertainty that creates yards and points.....

He was never on the trading block. It was a false rumor created specifically here at the mane! Some sportswriter claimed that New Orleans should look to Denver for backs and people here started speculating that they might trade hillis. It was never a real rumor.
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Old 06-09-2009, 09:40 AM   #17
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Old 06-09-2009, 09:59 AM   #18
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I'm wondering the same thing. Good problem to have though and we'll most likely be able to keep both guys (Moreno and Hillis) fresh throughout the season. Not saying that they are as good as Williams and Stewart (The Panther's RB Connection) but I think they will have similar roles and likely similar success.

Good post Popps
A VERY good problem to have ... and this combo including the drastically improved skill within our whole RB corp, including Buckhalter, Jordan and Torain as a fifth guy that can take his time to get good and healthy, we will have one punishing bunch of backs that can be used in versatile ways and have some solid fresh legs to pound it out late in the fourth quarter as well!

With our Oline, receivers/TEs and these runners and the mismatches this combo can present to a Defense within this complex offensive scheme, it could be holy hell on opposing teams once they get things in sync.

It will also help Orton/Simms be all they can be in this system as well, and give them some confidence as well with a second year and improved Clady, Harris, Graham and Hillis/Moreno blocking for him on passing downs as well as being great check downs on screens and play action.

We aren't going to need to throw 70 yard bombs to put the fear of god in these defenses. And her is nothing like a stiff running/ play action game to open up the passing game as well.

And ratcheting up the running and ball control passing game can do wonders for our still work in progress defense. We just need a little injury luck this year and I think were gonna surprise a lot of folks.

Cutler was a fool to walk away from this pin ball machine!

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Old 06-09-2009, 10:03 AM   #19
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The irony of Hillis is that Shanny finally got a FB and he is no longer here to run the offense.
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:32 AM   #20
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Between the article on Peyton's versatility to the praise McD has given him, I am feeling very good about Hillis, not only making this team, but being a key member of this team.

That makes me very happy!!
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:59 AM   #21
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To this day I'll never understand how Hillis lasted until the 7th round in the draft last year. An armchair QB like myself can watch tapes of Hillis at Arkansas and see that he was a football player. The first time I saw him in preseason last year I could see that he was special and I was confused as the season went on why he wasn't being utilized more. What am I missing? Or, perhaps a better question, what were THEY missing?!?
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Old 06-09-2009, 11:06 AM   #22
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Quote:
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despite all the hoo-haa around Jay, there were only two lesser-known stories about McDaniels that really had me concerned: 1) the cutting of Mike Leach for 'his' long-snapper, and 2) putting Hillis on the trading-block.
I now see that 1) was a case of upgrading an important position, NOT cronyism, and that 2) was either a false rumour or something that McDaniels has talked himself out of one way or another. It certainly doesn't sound like he's going to be traded now.... (although nothing would surprise me this offseason...)

I know that we were all hoping he would be the #1 tailback going into camp, but I have to say I'm not sure I don't prefer him to remain our secret weapon....Moreno should emerge as a true feature-back, and Hillis may only make the squad as a FB, but when he's back there teams are really not going to know for sure what the hell he's going to do - and that's the kind of confusion an uncertainty that creates yards and points.....
There was never any intention of trading Hillis.

Now, many of the cadre of hysterical little girls we have on this board - Broncostein, oubronc, footsteps, bpc, frerrotte, blueflame, Buffy, SoCalBronc, Smurf, etc - now they were sure McStupidheaddoodooface would trade Hillis.

Why would you want to lend credence to a bunch of hysterical little girls?
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Old 06-09-2009, 12:54 PM   #23
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I think Correll and Mareno will be the 1-2 punch with Hillis as the short yardage and another option but my question is if Hillis is playing H-Back then where does that leave Scheffler??
i honestly will not be surprised if Scheff becomes more of a WR than a TE in this offense. Supposedly he has dropped some weight and is lighter and sleeker now, so more than likely a little quicker.
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Old 06-09-2009, 01:03 PM   #24
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Hillis will be our Kevin Faulk. He is a similar player, but with more upside.
Wrong. Very wrong.

Knowshon Moreno is the Broncos version of Kevin Faulk.
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Old 06-09-2009, 01:05 PM   #25
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Basically, McD will use Hillis to create mismatches out of the backfield, or at the LOS. The fact that he catches the ball well only enhances his ability to create a mismatch.
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