Peyton Hillis given chance to prove himself

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
9:20
PM ET

The Kansas City Chiefs are giving Peyton Hillis one season to prove he is more like the 2010 version, who excelled under Brian Daboll, and not the 2011 version who struggled with several issues.

In an attempt to bolster their potentially dangerous offense, Kansas City brought the powerful running back -- who spent his first two NFL seasons with the Denver Broncos -- back to his AFC West roots. Hillis, who was traded from Denver to the Cleveland Browns in a deal for quarterback Brady Quinn two years ago, signed a one-year deal worth $3 million with Kansas City.

Under new offensive coordinator Dabol in 2010 Hillis ran for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hillis will be a complementary back to Jamaal Charles, who is expected to be back after tearing an ACL in Week 2, and provides insurance if Charles is not 100 percent by the start of the season. The Chiefs are also still visiting with San Diego Chargers free agent Mike Tolbert and there is a chance Tolbert could be added to the backfield as well.

The Chiefs are a ground-based team and Hillis is a good fit. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. loves the addition in Kansas City.

“Hillis runs with extreme aggression and also catches the ball much better than many realize since he is a big power," Williamson said. "I worry about his durability, but with Charles, he should be the complementary piece.”

Last season without Daboll, Hillis struggled in several areas. He had just 587 yards and averaged 3.6 yards a carry during a year where he graced the cover of the Madden video game.

It was a strange season for Hillis. He was questioned for missing a game when he was ill, there was a reported player’s intervention for him because of his unhappiness over his contract, he went through several agents, and he has denied a report that he thought about quitting football last season to join the CIA.

Because the Chiefs are not committing to Hills for the long term, the team is protected if Hillis does not revert to his 2010 days. I expect Hillis to play very hard as he tries to prove to the Chiefs and to the rest of the league he deserves the long-term deal he has long desired.

Hillis is another interesting component to Kansas City’s offense. An offense featuring Charles, Hills, receivers Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, Jon Baldwin and tight end Tony Moeaki is powerful. It has the potential to both wear down opponents and to score quickly. The Chiefs are trying to make it even better. They are trying to sign Tolbert and former Houston standout right tackle Eric Winston. Plus, the team is bringing in former Oakland tight end Kevin Boss to pair with Moeaki.

Instead of trying to replace quarterback Matt Cassel, it seems that the Chiefs are bent on giving him as much help as possible. Potential Cassel competitors Jason Campbell, Kyle Orton and Chad Henne have all signed elsewhere.

With a defensive-minded head coach in Romeo Crennel, it is clear the Chiefs believe pumping up the offense is the team’s biggest priority and securing Hillis to a team-friendly deal is a solid start.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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