Anyone who's seen Jeremy Hill play knows he's a big, physical power rusher with a knack for collecting at the goal line. Of his 31 career rushing touchdowns (including two in the playoffs), 25 have come from 9 yards or closer, and 22 have come from 4 yards or closer. It's probably that exact stat that drew the Patriots to Hill this offseason. With New England, Hill will battle Mike Gillislee for the short-yardage/goal-line role in training camp. On the hunch he gets it, he'll be worth taking with a late-round pick since he'll be good for some touchdown-heavy spot starts -- perhaps with potential for even more. You never know with the Patriots.
Though Hill is part of a crowded backfield in New England, he feels ready to compete now that he has addressed the ankle issue that slowed him prior to undergoing surgery last November, Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal reports. "I just wasn't myself," Hill said of his pre-procedure form. "I really didn't have the flexibility and the strength in [the ankle] that I needed to be the back that I wanted to be. I'm glad that I got it done and I can get it back to 100 percent and be the back I know I can be." Hill is currently flying under the radar, with first-round draft pick Sony Michel looking like a dynamic addition to the New England offense. Moreover, Rex Burkhead, James White, Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden are also on hand. That said, the 5.1 yards per carry average Hill notched as a rookie for the Bengals in 2014 coupled with his nose for the end zone (30 touchdowns over 54 career NFL games), suggests that he can't be ignored heading into training camp. If things break his way, the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder could emerge as a useful cog in New England's running-back rotation.
Hill has made a good impression with his work during the Patriots' voluntary offseason program, ESPN's Mike Reiss reports. When Hill joined the Patriots as a free agent last month, his path to carries was unclear, though his nose for the red zone while with the Bengals in 2015 and 2016 offered hope that the 25-year-old could rebound from an injury-shortened 2017 campaign. The Patriots' first-round selection of running back Sony Michel on Thursday further clouds Hill's potential role with the team. Despite the good impression he's made, the 2014 second-rounder seems likely to compete with Gillislee and Brandon Bolden for a depth spot behind roster locks Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White.
Hill likely will have to compete for a roster spot, as his one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Patriots only includes $150,000 guaranteed (in the form of a signing bonus), Ben Volin of The Boston Globe reports. Hill's 2017 campaign ended in November when he opted to have ankle surgery, finishing with 37 carries for 116 yards (3.1 average) without any touchdowns in seven games. He had either 222 or 223 carries and at least nine touchdowns in each of his first three seasons in Cincinnati, but had managed just 3.6 yards per carry in 2015 and 3.8 in 2016, after rumbling for 5.2 (1,124 rushing yards) as a rookie second-round pick in 2014. Now four years removed from that big season, Hill will need to make a strong impression in training camp to win a spot on the final roster. He'll likely be competing with Mike Gillislee for a power back role, with the loser potentially becoming a cut-down casualty before Week 1. Rex Burkhead and James White appear locked into roster spots, and Brandon Bolden always seems to stick around thanks to his value on special teams. Hill's ankle should be healthy at some point this offseason, if it isn't already.
The Patriots signed Hill (ankle) to a contract Friday, Field Yates of ESPN reports. Hill surprised his previous employer, the Bengals, when he underwent season-ending ankle surgery in early November. The impetus was his upcoming status as a free agent, but upon landing in New England, he joins a backfield populated by Rex Burkhead, James White and Mike Gillislee. Hill is a fair bet to be involved on a weekly basis, but consistency will be difficult to attain due to the situation.
Hill (ankle) is visiting the Patriots on Friday, Field Yates of ESPN reports. This is Hill's first reported visit in free agency, with his downward career arc likely limiting interest around the league. He fell shy of four yards per carry each of the past three seasons, but he at least stayed healthy and scored a plethora of short touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, whereas last season he played seven games (zero TDs) before landing on injured reserve with an ankle injury. The 25-year-old likely will need to reprove himself wherever he ends up signing, be it in New England or elsewhere. The Patriots are looking for help in a backfield that lost Dion Lewis but retained Rex Burkhead, along with James White and Mike Gillislee. The Pats may envision Hill and Gillislee competing for the power role in their offense.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|6||10/15||Kansas City Chiefs||20||17.76|
|9||11/05||Green Bay Packers||16||17.38|
|12||11/25||@New York Jets||24||18.50|
|17||12/30||New York Jets||24||18.50|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||161||583||7||13||90||0||107|