April 16, 2014

Welcome Back, Peyton Hillis

Peyton Hillis didn’t have the greatest game of his career in his return to the field, but it was still notable.  After a few weeks seeing the Browns suffer along with practice-squad signees it was good to have Hillis back rumbling for yardage.  I don’t mean to take anything away from Chris Ogbonnaya and his 100-yard game a week ago against Jacksonville, but that performance is probably the exception and not the rule for a guy like Ogbonnaya.

Back to Peyton’s day.  He only had 65 yards on 19 carries for an ordinary 3.4 yard average, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.    There’s just a different level of talent when looking at Hillis work.  In general, pass plays are higher risk.  While Hillis is known to fumble a little too frequently, handoffs are still less risky.  The Browns ran the ball for 9 of their 16 first downs in the game.  Hillis accounted for five of those first downs which is huge for a developing offense.

This doesn’t even encapsulate the improved down and distance when a guy like Hillis takes what should be no gain or a one yard loss and moves the pile 3-5 yards.  Hillis had some negative plays in the second half when the Bengals stacked against him, but it still seemed like Hillis found ways to improve on situations that could have been worse.

This one performance probably won’t be enough to re-ignite contract talks and have the Browns clamoring to pay him huge dollars, but it is a nice first step for Hillis and the Browns.  Even in a loss, I am confident that the Browns realize that life with Hillis is still better than life without him.

It certainly seems like Pat Shurmur agrees. Despite taking heat earlier in the year for not using Hillis enough in the Tennessee game, Shurmur took a surprise appearance by Hillis and made it count.  Hillis carried the ball 19 times compared with Ogbonnaya’s three carries and Greg Little’s one.  The timing couldn’t be better either.  The Browns welcome the Ravens to Cleveland this weekend and will need as many options as possible on hand.  The Ravens are third in the league in rushing yards allowed per game.

Photo: Jon Cole/WFNY

  • oribiasi

    Hillis got us some first downs (don’t remember precisely the quarter when it happened) that Ogbonnaya is NOT picking up during the game, so he clearly still “has it.” He instantly makes any team better and when he is on the field the other team MUST game plan for him. Tell me who else on our offensive unit you can say the same about this season? Now, whether Shurmur can find a place for him to be effectively used all 4 quarters of the game is left to be seen.

  • Big Z

    Man I hope he is a Brown next year.

  • RyInCBus

    I agree Craig, life with Hillis IS better than life without him. We gotta try to resign him if the price is right. I just hope he and his agent have come to their senses when its time to revisit the bargaining table.

  • Harv 21

    Thought it was interesting that Hillis was used differently. Think of how many swing passes and check downs were thrown his way last year and early this year. Seems like the coaches, or maybe Colt, are at least trying to look upfield a litle more now.

  • EZ

    Definitely saw a few plays where Hillis got the handoff, saw no hole in front of him and was just like, “Meh” and ran into the pile for a 5-yard gain. Really hope to see him back next year.

  • oribiasi

    @ EZ: Absolutely. If you send Hardesty in there he will get 1 yard and break his patella tendon.

    Hillis can wear down a defensive front on any team. This can, in turn, make the pass rush less effective and give Colt more time to throw. Now, if only Little could catch the damned ball. Did you know we lead the league in drops? Yikes.

  • Vengeful Pat

    I didn’t get a chance to see the game and just assumed that Pat Shurmur tried to hold onto a 3-point lead way too early in the 4th quarter because he’s done it before. I was surprised to see that the play-calling really seemed to have a good mix. The offense just didn’t execute. From what I can see Hillis was pretty effective when the O-line held up its end of the deal.

    I would like to reiterate my desire for a #1 receiver in next year’s draft. Greg Little can be a good #2 or #3 receiver. I just don’t see him being the kind of guy who can go up and get a jump ball in traffic with any sort of consistency. We need someone with sure hands who will help us cut down on dropped passes. Although we do have Evan Moore… who was targeted once and caught the pass.

  • Vengeful Pat

    Also, Greg Little had 13 targets and only 5 catches. Yeesh.

  • oribiasi

    @ Vengeful Pat: If Little catches, say, 10 passes…do we win this football game? Not just any 10, but a meaningful number of passes when it counted and could keep the drive alive…my answer is yes.

  • Vengeful Pat

    One last thought… I made the mistake of listening to Maller and Looney on Fox Sports Radio while driving around yesterday. These guys are complete idiots. They were clowning on the Browns for even attempting to kick a field goal from 55 yards in the fourth quarter, seemingly feeling like this was a ridiculous thing to do for the Browns. Not the fact that they botched the snap… just the fact that they were trying to attempt a 55 yard field goal in the first place.

    They were doing this after Phil Dawson had already made a 54 yard field goal in the 3rd quarter… needless to say, I can no longer respect anything that comes out of these guys’ mouths and won’t be tuning into their show on Sundays anymore. I have a very low tolerance for idiocy.

  • Vengeful Pat

    @oribiasi – my answer is “absolutely”. I love that McCoy is feeling comfortable enough in the offense to target wide receivers with more frequency (I think this is a really good sign), but I think I’d rather have him target Norwood 13 times instead of Little at this point.

  • Josh Stein

    Little might be better at RB…he certainly looked the part on his one carry.

  • oribiasi

    @ Vengeful Pat: Well yeah, Norwood has a hot hand and so I’d also like to see him get more passes. We found a diamond in the rough there, presumably, and I’d like to see him develop into a speed receiver who can find an open zone and make yards.

    I definitely do NOT want to give up on Little no matter how weird he acts at times (i.e., not letting go of the football after his TD catch). He needs more concentration and he needs to sit down with Colt and throw the ball back/forth for a few hours.

    I want to throw to him enough so I can decide if he can be a legit threat at No. 2 WR or if he just can’t catch.

    Also, let’s stop calling him Braylon Little. It’s making me sick and its bringing me nightmares.

  • oribiasi

    @ Josh Stein: He’s too tall/lanky to be a WR, IMO. Also, his speed isn’t elite.

    If he could catch consistently it might be fun to put him in the slot or in Trips to try a screen, which is essentially a long hand off. He is physical enough to get some serious YAC, but he has to do the catch part first.

  • oribiasi

    @ Josh Stein: He’s too tall/lanky to be an RB, IMO. Also, his speed isn’t elite.

    If he could catch consistently it might be fun to put him in the slot or in Trips to try a screen, which is essentially a long hand off. He is physical enough to get some serious YAC, but he has to do the catch part first.

  • Nobody

    @Vengeful – glad to hear I wasn’t the only one thinking it was dumb to kick that far out…they were against the win at that point in the game and may have been better off faking the kick, imo.

  • -bobby-

    There was hardly any wind judging by the goal posts, and we had just nailed a 54 yarder with room to spare.

    As for Little, I think Anquan Boldin is the peak he should shoot for. Not a #1 guy himself, but can make plays espescially with a legit #1 across the field. Norwood screams Devery Henderson to me. A burner that may make an impact every now and then but not a consistent target in a good O (as in 10+ targets a game). So basically, Little to me is a #2, and Norwood is a 3/4 WR. MoMass is a possession 3/4 guy. Cribbs is a specialty player. We need our “Optimus Prime” (get it…) as the #1 target. Someone like AJ Green. (NOT JULIO JONES- he will never be that guy IMO).

  • -bobby-

    As a side- whats y’alls take of McCoy. I have a paradox thinking that he doesnt have the accuracy to make it in the league, but then thinking better WRs can make less accurate throws look like easy on time catches. I look at the Norwood bomb in the 1st drive and think, Rodgers would not let that ball head out of bounds, but maybe his WRs can just tip toe that line better and catch it in stride. Or on a cross/drag by Little McCoy put it on his back shoulder making him adjust and ending in a drop. Maybe Jennings makes that catch and turns up field for a few yards? I dont know, right now its like the chicken/egg dilemma to me.

  • RyInCBus

    @bobby I agree. I am by no means sold on McCoy. Everyone is lambasting Little over the drops because those are easy to see. But for every drop that occurred yesterday, there was a bad throw by McCoy. The Norwoord floater, the MoMass trap in the dirt, the behind the back of Ben Watson on a simple 5 yard crossing route… and let’s not forget the dirt dart thrown to Obie on the first play of the ill-fated comeback attempt with :34 seconds left. He was 5 yards AWAY!! Colt may be a slightly above average QB but I don’t want to settle for slightly above average simplky because we’ve seen nothing but terrible for so many years. Raise your expectations people!

  • BuckeyeDawg

    @18 & 19 – I am not sold on McCoy long term either, but what I think he has done is show enough to get the benefit of the doubt going into next year. If we upgrade WR and the O-Line and keep Hillis, we will see what we really have in McCoy next year. He has just now started the equivalent of one full season, and he will have the entire off season to improve.

    If he shows that he can’t get it done with more weapons by the end of next season, then it’s time to cut bait and look for a QB in the 2013 draft. But he has played well enough that we don’t have to spend a high pick on a QB in this draft, and that is crucial, in my opinion.

  • oribiasi

    @ RyInCBus: Yeah, I’ve been saying it on this website for a while now, I just don’t think Colt has it. His production is down and the only justification some of the commenters can make for his improvement is his TD/INT ratio, compared to last year. They refuse to look at the fact that four (yes, 4) of the touchdowns this year were garbage time scores.

    I wrote an article about this year’s QB production that I submitted to WFNY but they don’t want an old guy’s voice on here. That’s too bad, really.

    Remember what Coach Rutigliano said: “A new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners.” (I have no idea if he came up with that, but damn if it ain’t correct).

  • http://waitingforextyear BAJ22

    While few are better than Hillis in short yardage situations, I was hoping to see more of Ogbannaya on first and second downs. Ogbannaya ended up with 3 carries for 16 yards. To me, he has better vision and is more likely to have a big run than Hillis.