After a challenging year with the Cleveland Browns in 2011,
The-fifth year running back has yet to practice with returning All-Pro running back
“I think this is going to work out magnificently,” Hillis said about his future partner in the Chiefs backfield. “We complement each other really well.”
Fans know Hillis as anything but a complimentary back, though. In 2010, Hillis was one of the few true lead backs that bucked the league-wide trend of a split-carried offense. While teams like the Chargers, Falcons, Panthers, and Broncos began to feature two or more backs, Hillis amassed 1,177 yards, and 11 touchdowns as the lead back for the Browns.
That lead role was shelved on March 14th when Hillis signed with the Chiefs. Now, Hillis knows he’ll be part of a rotation that will primarily include Charles, but possibly
Hillis understands just how valuable a multi-faceted running attack is. He was part of a three-headed rushing attack that featured current NFLers Darren McFadden and Felix Jones at Arkansas. And as a member of the Broncos, Hillis shared the workload with Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter.
Hillis is looking forward to sharing the workload once again, playing off his strengths and the strengths of teammates like Charles.
“He’s a tremendous running back with lots of speed and I think I’m a decent back who brings some power,” said Hillis after last week’s OTAs, “I think it will work well.”
Charles has similar high hopes about the new two-back system, and with good reason. His most successful season came as a member of a rotation with veteran back Thomas Jones.
During his breakout 2010 campaign, Jones and Charles rushed for an NFL-best 164.2 yards per game, lead the league with 542 rushing attempts, and won the AFC West crown.
From his seasons as a bruising ball carrier with the Broncos and Browns, Charles thinks his newest teammate can fill the power void that Jones once provided as a between-the-tackles runner in 2010.
“I feel like he’s the same as Thomas Jones,” Charles said. “He’s going to come in and get all the tough yards and all the power and I feel like that was the same thing when Thomas was here. If he can contribute to the team and put points on the board, why not?”
Coach Romeo Crennel knows just how many points a potent two running back system can score. In 2004, Crennel coached the New England Patriots defense in practice against Corey Dillon’s between-the-tackle power runs and Kevin Faulk’s outside-the-tackles speed. That year, the duo of Dillon and Faulk carried the Patriots to a 14-2 record and their third Lombardi Trophy.
Crennel thinks he can duplicate that success with the Chiefs new backfield tandem.
Both of them together can make a good compliment (to our offense),” said Crennel after Friday’s OTAs. “(We’re) able to split time as we need to split time with them.”
New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is no stranger to a dual running back system either. Daboll was the quarterbacks coach for the New York Jets in 2007, and saw how offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer mixed Jones and speed back Leon Washington.
Daboll applied that logic to the Dolphins’ offense last season when he featured Reggie Bush as a speed back and rookie Daniel Thomas as a power runner.
Miami finished 11th in the NFL in rushing yards in 2011, there’s no reason to think Daboll won’t succeed with Hillis and a healthy Charles with the Chiefs in 2012.