Why talk about Peyton Hillis again? After finishing up our training camp previews for the quarterback position on Monday, it is time to move to the second part of our "Offensive Attack" preview: the running back position. We'll be looking at this position through Thursday, and to start things off, I wanted to quickly reflect on last year's situation.
I don't blame anyone who is tired of hearing about the Hillis drama. The ego. The illness. The hamstring. The contract. The CIA. I'm not trying to go back and determine which, if any, of those things had any real merit. It wasn't just a nightmare season for Hillis at the running back position, though. Montario Hardesty had his own issues with injury, hanging onto the football, and overall effectiveness. Brandon Jackson, the team's 'big signing' out of free agency for the West Coast Offense, was placed on injured reserve before the season even began. Chris Ogbonnaya might have been the guy who stood out the most, and he is someone anyone could've picked up.
I thought everyone could move past the Hillis drama at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Hillis was set to be a free agent, and there was no way the team was going to stay with Hardesty as their featured back for 2012. Wide receiver seemed like Cleveland's biggest hole, and by re-signing Hillis, the coaching staff would not have to add another position to their list of needs. The issue? Cleveland never re-signed Hillis. The Kansas City Chiefs made him a one-year offer for $3 million, and he took it. The Browns weren't even interested.
It's not easy to accept the quick downfall of Hillis. This was a guy who became the identity of the Browns offense two years ago out of nowhere. Just as quickly as he gained his fame, he lost it. I don't want to remember the drama-filled season with Hillis. I want to remember the good times, like when he hurdled a Falcons defender or bulldozed over a Panther into the end zone.
After bypassing on Hillis in free agnecy, the Browns made a fast transition away from him. When April's draft hit, they traded up to the No. 3 pick to take Alabama running back Trent Richardson. We haven't seen Richardson play a single snap as a member of the Browns, but he has garnered a lot of support for the way he has carried himself around Berea this offseason. Hillis might be a distant memory to some, but this writer has not forgotten about him. I still check out our Kansas City Chiefs affiliate, Arrowhead Pride, every couple of days to see what the latest news is with Hillis. During last year's offseason, he was pulling trucks as part of his workout routine. As it turns out, he's doing the same thing as a member of the Chiefs. The Kansas City Star even shot some video of it recently. It almost makes me feel like he's still a member of the Browns...but he's not.
When the front office decided not to retain Hillis, I needed to see what the big picture was. So far, you have to like what they've done. Drafting Richardson and Brandon Weeden ensures that this offense will look much different than it did a season ago. With Richardson being the team's new featured back, how does the situation behind him look? That is what we will investigate on Independence Day. I know many of you will be enjoying your barbeques and family gatherings, but if you have a chance to check out Dawgs By Nature before you hit the hay for the night, please be sure to do so!