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Friday, March 18, 2011
Holmgren 'excited' about Hillis, Hardesty

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Could a backfield of Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty be a secret weapon for the Cleveland Browns in 2011? Browns president Mike Holmgren is intrigued by the possibility.

"I could get real excited about that," Holmgren said this week. "That's a good combination for this reason: I think they both have excellent ball skills, catching the ball and running skills. So you don't have to have one guy as the runner, one guy as the catcher, one guy as the blocker, you don't have to do that."

The Browns, who finished 5-11 last season, need all the help they can get to close the gap with the Baltimore Ravens (12-4) and Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) in the AFC North. Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert joined the Browns one year ago with a significant talent deficit. But the pair did a good job of bringing good, young players to Cleveland last season.

Two of those additions were Hillis and Hardesty. Hillis was acquired in a trade with the Denver Broncos for quarterback Brady Quinn, and Hardesty was Cleveland's second-round draft pick.

Hillis had a breakout season in 2010, rushing for 1,177 yards and scoring 13 total touchdowns. Hardesty showed promise in camps but suffered a season-ending knee injury in the final game of the preseason.

Next season, both players will start the year healthy. With fullback and pending free agent Lawrence Vickers' future with Cleveland in doubt, you could see a lot of Hillis and Hardesty sharing the same backfield.

"They both have to be willing to do all those things for each other," Holmgren explained. "If those are the two in the game at the same time, they have to block for each other and they have to do everything. I think they are capable of doing that. I hope I get a chance to see that."