Signing a one-year deal with the New England Patriots this offseason, running back Jeremy Hill is out to prove he is still has what it takes to be a reliable performer in the NFL.
Two years ago the Cincinnati Bengals held a 16-15 lead late in the fourth quarter over division rival Pittsburgh Steelers and Hill lined up in the backfield behind A.J. McCarron.
As the play clock wound down the ball was snapped and Hill took the handoff from McCarron.
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Seconds later Ryan Shazier delivered a hit that forced the ball out of Hill’s hands and the Steelers gained possession. It was the last playoff game Hill played in, but it likely won’t be the last for Hill, as the New England Patriots signed him to a 1-year contract this offseason.
What Happened Last Year
The Bengals made headlines in the offseason when they made the controversial second round pick (No. 48 overall) of Joe Mixon out of Oklahoma. There was surveillance video of Mixon punching a woman in a restaurant in Norman during his college years.
Mixon was without question a first round talent on the field.
Once the Bengals selected Mixon, there was a crowded backfield with Hill, Giovanni Bernard and Mixon.
In the regular season Cincinnati slowly drifted away from using Hill. He received 37 carries in the seven games he played in.
Mixon received 85 carries and Bernard was given 28 carries in those seven games. Bernard, though, is primary used as a receiving back by the Bengals. Hill was placed on IR with an ankle injury and didn’t play the rest of the season.
It was clear the Bengals were moving on from Hill and going with the Mixon/Bernard combination moving forward.
Why the New England Patriots Signed Hill
Hill is looking to recapture the tape that made him into one of the premier backs in his first three seasons in the league with Cincinnati.
With 2,757 rushing yards on 667 rushing attempts in his first three seasons, Hill’s presence was felt on the goal line. It showed with 29 touchdowns in those years, where he would often run over opposing defenders to reach pay dirt, something he’ll likely be relied upon to do for New England this upcoming season. He was top-10 in rushing touchdowns each of his first three seasons.
Fumble No More
There are different ways a player can get in the dog house of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, one of them being fumbling issues.
For Hill that was an issue not only in the playoff game against the Steelers but in his first two seasons he lost five fumbles.
Since the conclusion of his second year Hill hasn’t lost a fumble in 270 rushing attempts.
For Hill to succeed in New England, carrying over that progress will be critical in a crowded backfield consisting of Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James White, Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden. Outside of the rookie Michel, Belichick knows what he has with the other four backs.
Familiar Faces in New England
The transition for Hill shouldn’t be a challenging one.
Hill will be joining former Bengals teammate Burkhead in New England and also has connections through LSU, his alma mater.
Former Patriots Kevin Faulk and Stevan Ridley both were Tigers products and had success for Belichick.
Hill will likely be another one on that list.
Will Hill Be Worth It
When breaking down a 1-year $1.5 million contract, it’s pretty simple.
Does Hill have the ability to outperform that deal?
The answer is an astounding yes.
He’s already proven capable of being a premier back in the league and at 25 years of age there should still be plenty left in the tank. The change of scenery to a winning organization should also have Hill fired up.
For Belichick, this may be another signing that has a massive return on investment, something that’s become an annual occurrence in New England.
This signing should be a big win for New England.