We might be just six weeks into the 2011 NFL season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look ahead to next year, and what areas your team needs to improve. When you are the Washington Redskins in the middle of a rebuilding year plenty of needs become evident, but one looks like the solution might already be clear, and that is Peyton Hillis at running back.
The Redskins running game has been a huge disappointment this season, as their 4 yards per carry rank 21st in the league, and they’ve averaged 3 yards per carry in three out of five games. While the Redskins have been using three running backs, none have really broken out and taken over the running back job.
Tim Hightower: Hightower is the ‘starter’, but he’s averaging under 4 yards a carry for the season, and doesn’t look like he can be an every down back in the NFL. He’s a good pass protector, and has been effective catching the ball out of the backfield. He’s an impending free agent and could be brought back, but he needs to be in more of a 3rd down back type of role.
Ryan Torain: After sitting the first three games, Torain came on in game 4 against the Rams, and put up 135 yards on just 19 carries. With Hightower banged up, Torain was given starting duties against the Eagles, but showed his limitations and inconsistency. Torain was not an effective pass blocker, and dropped a pass against the Eagles. Torain also followed up his 135 yard game, with a 22 yard game on 10 carries. He’s signed cheaply for next season but given his in ability to be effective in the passing game, he could be moved.
Roy Helu: Helu is a promising rookie, who has been the most consistent of all the backs in both running and receiving. He’s not much of a blocker which limits his snaps, but the upside is definitely present. The Redskins need to start giving him more carries and catch opportunities, but other than that he is fine, and is the only sure thing for next year.
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So what does Hillis bring to the table?:
Hillis, who was originally drafted by Mike Shanahan, is a pure power back, and would give the Redskins the short yardage threat they’ve lacked for years. While his numbers are down this year, both last season and 2008 (under Shanahan) when he was given significant carries he responded with good numbers. He’s also very effective pass blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield. While Hillis is considered more of a power runner (and for obvious reasons) he has good quickness and has obviously been effective in this system before. His power would also be an asset considering how weak the offensive line has been.
What will it take to land him, and what are the odds he chooses Washington?:
I actually think the Browns are smart letting Hillis go to free agency, as there aren’t that many RB vacancies around the league. Most teams around the league are already set with either an established veteran or have invested high draft picks into the position. Outside of Cleveland and Washington, the only teams that I could really see getting in the Hillis market (assuming guys lIke Forte and Rice are Franchised or resign), would be Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Seattle. Of those Redskins are one of the more sure things, and they have Mike Shanahan at the helm, who drafted Hillis and knows how to use him (343 yards and 6 TD’s in just 68 carries). As for cost I think a fair basis would be Ahmad Bradshaw‘s 4 year $18 million deal that he signed last year. Bradshaw had more opportunities and was coming off a 1,000 yard year, but Hillis is probably more complete given his pass blocking skills. I would offer Hillis a 5 year $20 million deal with about half of it guaranteed.
Overview: Mike Shanahan has brought in other former Broncos, and this would be one he’d be wise to make a strong push for. Hillis would give the Redskins the power back they’ve been lacking, and give Helu a perfect complement. Sure it is always a risk to offer a long term deal to a running back, but this is below 2nd tier money, and Hillis will be just 26 next year.