One of the best things about Peyton Hillis is that he is relatively young at 24 years of age.
Coming into this season he was also very young with consideration to that dreaded “mileage” that NFL running backs build up over the years. Josh McDaniels took a lot of heat for not using Peyton Hillis and then trading him for Brady Quinn, but he did the Browns a big favor keeping this SUV in the garage.
OK, enough of the car comparisons.
Peyton Hillis is at a career-high workload. While he did have another good game in the box score yesterday in Buffalo even after the fumbles. Anyone who has watching all year though can see that Hillis just doesn’t seem to have the same explosiveness in the second half. It makes me wonder if Peyton Hillis is just worn down at this point his breakout season.
Consider that Hillis went for 72 yards on 12 carries by halftime against the Bills. He had 9 more carries in the second half for 36 yards. That seems to be a trend for the season. Peyton Hillis has gained 54.2% of his rushing yards in the first halves of games. 580 in the first versus 490 in the second halves. That in and of itself doesn’t seem too astonishing, but give it a closer look. Since the New England game where Hillis exploded for 184 yards rushing on 29 attempts, the numbers are much more weighted. In the five games since New England, Hillis has gained 64.1% of his yards (273) in the first as opposed to 35.9% (153) in the second.
Obviously some of this could have to do with scheme by the Browns and Brian Daboll. Some could have to do with other teams making adjustments at half time. I know there are no simple answers when there are so many moving parts. Still, it seems to me that one of those moving parts might be that a 24 year-old with career highs in pretty much every statistical category available is starting to get a bit worn down over a grueling season. Add in the fact that Hillis seeks contact so frequently and it should be even less of a surprise.
Some more stats for you. Peyton Hillis’ 238 rushing attempts are eighth most in the league after names like Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, Mendenhall, and Chris Johnson. The astonishing thing is that Peyton Hillis’ 57 receptions are good enough for 12th in the NFL. As in all players. As in that ranking includes wide receivers and tight ends. The only running back who has caught more balls this year is LeSean McCoy. And in terms of yards from scrimmage overall, Peyton Hillis is 4th with 1516 after Arian Foster, Jones-Drew and the recently paid Jamaal Charles.
All these things are a double-edged sword. It is good that the Browns have Peyton Hillis and that he has the ability to carry a large load. The question is how much load is too much. I know you are all sick of hearing the Jerome Harrison stuff from me, so I won’t go into it again. Still, this season better serve as a cautionary tale for the Browns with regard to their promising young back who will presumably get a contract extension and a big raise. If the Browns plan on making the most of their investment, they better plan on maximizing his effectiveness next year by reducing his utilization if just slightly. Montario Hardesty could help, but the Browns better have plans beyond him as well.
While we are talking about contracts, let’s look at what Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles just got. ProFootballTalk is one of the best sites for seeing through the gaudy numbers that initially get reported to make everyone feel good. It has been reported so far that Charles has inked a five-year deal for $32.5 million with $13 million guaranteed. Charles was set to be a restricted free agent after this season and Peyton Hillis has one more year left on his deal that will pay him $555,000 in 2011. Whatever Jamaal Charles got, let’s assume that Peyton Hillis is worth just as much to the Browns as Charles is to the Chiefs. That being said, Hillis has less leverage than Charles did who was set to become some kind of free agent following this season depending on the CBA and ongoing negotiations.
So, that is your most recent comp. If Holmgren and Heckert are tough guys at the table like I would argue they were with Josh Cribbs, then Hillis will get a substantial raise locking him up long-term, but it should be something south of what Jamaal Charles gets due to a decreased amount of leverage with a year remaining on his deal. That being said, you just never know how this stuff will play out.