BEREA, Ohio—It was quite fortuitous that Peyton Hillis played against the Jets in 2008 as Eric Mangini was coaching the team that season and Hillis had the best day of his rookie season against New York. He rushed 32 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. Hillis made an impression on Mangini as he ran over his defenders and when the opportunity to trade Brady Quinn and get Hillis in the deal, Mangini was all in.
Most likely, Hillis will go over the 1,000-yard mark this week against the Bills.
“It would be a dream come true,” Hillis said. “It’s always been one of my dreams to do something like that.”
Despite going up against the lowest ranked defense in the NFL this week, Hillis is taking nothing for granted.
“They’re a good defense” Hillis said. “They have got a couple of good pass rushers, big guys up front in the d-line. It’s just going to be another game that we have to prepare for and go out and execute. No matter what the conditions are, we have to go out there and do that.”
Mangini was asked if he ever dreamed that Hillis would rush for over 1,000 yards this season.
“It’s not on my dream list,” Mangini said. “I’m really happy for him and it’s nice too, because he and I talked on the first call. I told him he could come here and get 1,000 yards. I really believed that when I said that.”
Hillis gives the credit to those around him and says getting 1,000 yards is more of a team effort.
“Since I’ve been on this team and I see the team unity and that we have a bunch of great guys, I know it would mean a lot to them, too,” he said. “Especially, our o-line. It’s not for myself, it’s for them.”
Hillis has been able to maintain a high rushing average, even this season when teams have ganged up on him.
“When you look at his historic production it has been 4.4, one year it was 5.0, which is fantastic,” Mangini said
He has a 4.5 average for his NFL career and is averaging 4.4 this season with the Browns. He had 962 yards on 217 carries with 11 touchdowns. He also leads the team with 53 receptions for 436 yards with two touchdowns.
Hillis rushed for 343 yards on 68 carries in his rookie season in Denver after being a seventh-round draft choice from Arkansas. He led the team in rushing and in rushing touchdowns with five. He also caught 14 passes for 179 yards with a touchdown. In 2009, he fell in disfavor with now fired Broncos’ coach Josh McDaniels and played in 14 games but had just 20 carries for 77 yards with a touchdown. He caught five passes for 57 yards.
Hillis has five 100-yard rushing games in his career, with four of them this season. His best performance was an 184-yard effort against the Patriots. He had 36 yards receiving for a combined effort of 220 yards. He also had 144 yards against the Ravens.
“I was so excited to get him here,” Jake Delhomme said. “I know that. Seeing him and the professional he is, he does very well against linebackers and even against safeties. He’s extremely fast and obviously catches the ball very well but he’s very, very intelligent.
“He’s extremely intelligent, we move him around a good bit,” he said. “He has a very good sense of coverages. That’s one thing that’s very impressive about him. He has a really good sense of coverages and making the right decisions.”
Delhomme said the Browns have to be able to run the ball late in the season.
“I think that’s got to be what teams in this region have to be built for,” Delhomme said. “I think this team toward the end of last year, obviously on their four-game stretch, really ran the ball extremely well. That’s what you have to gear up to and be able to run the football because it will get adverse.
“There’s no doubt,” he said. “That’s what you have to do and certainly I think every game we go into, you want to establish the run. When you can do that effectively, it helps the passing game. That’s the key because one, you keep the ball away from the other team and you have a lot less things happen when you run the football.”
When Hillis arrived, some of the original thought was he would be used as a receiving back on third down.
“That’s the one thing and I said that about Peyton the other day,” Delhomme said. “Peyton is a three down back. You have guys who are first and second down backs, but Peyton is a three down back. That makes those guys very effective.”
This story was originally published on Fox Sports Ohio.