In what has to rank as one of the newsiest press briefings in recent memory, the Vikings announced Wednesday that A) Adrian Peterson is having surgery Thursday, B) Matt Kalil is going on IR with a hip injury and C) the team has signed running back Ronnie Hillman.
All three of those things are somewhat related — particularly A and C — so let’s break this down through the lens of the new guy, Hillman. Here are five things to know about the new running back.
1) The basics: He just turned 25 and was a third-round pick by the Broncos in 2012 out of San Diego State. He played four years in Denver, seeing extensive action last season during the Broncos’ Super Bowl run — carrying 207 times for 863 yards and seven TDs during the regular season to lead the team. He was stifled in the postseason, though, gaining just 54 yards on 32 playoff carries.
2) Outside of running, Hillman doesn’t appear to offer much. He doesn’t have much or a reputation as a pass-catcher or pass blocker, and one of the reasons he was deemed expendable in Denver — the Broncos cut him at the end of camp this year — is that he doesn’t play on special teams.
3) He’s hardly a big back at 5-9, 196 pounds. But as evidenced by his 207 carries last season he at least has the capability of carrying quite a bit of the workload. And at age 25, he has more than enough tread left on his tires, so to speak. That said, Ben Tate (who was brought in by the Vikings in 2014, the year Peterson missed all but one game) was only 26 when Minnesota nabbed him and was coming off a similar season as the one Hillman had last year. He was quickly cut. Translation: it’s hard to know what to expect.
4) Fumbling has been an issue. Hillman has eight career fumbles (three lost) in 520 career touches from scrimmage (receptions or carries). If that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider that Peterson has 38 fumbles in 2,652 career touches from scrimmage. That’s one per every 70 touches for Peterson — who has carried the label of having a fumbling problem at various points in his career. Hillman’s rate is one per 65 touches — even higher than Peterson.
5) That said, as someone who can bolster depth and help stabilize the running game in the absence of Peterson, the Vikings could do a lot worse than Hillman. He was in for a workout Tuesday with the Chargers, meaning there was other interest and the Vikings needed to act quickly. He has a career average of 4.1 yards per carry and he’s been a feature back for a Super Bowl team. The biggest question likely revolves more around the Vikings’ offensive line — minus Kalil — to be much more effective in blocking and opening holes for whichever back is getting the carries.