Peyton Hillis is the Foundation the Cleveland Browns Should Build on

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2010

CLEVELAND - AUGUST 21:  Chris Chamberlain #57 of the St. Louis Rams tackles Peyton Hillis #40 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 21, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Last week I wrote an article asking why the Browns weren't using Peyton Hillis more. Whenever Hillis has been given a legitimate opportunity, he has delivered.

This past Sunday was no different.

With Jerome Harrison out with an injury, Hillis got the vast majority of the carries. He ran the ball 22 times for 144 yards and a touchdown. He also collected seven receptions for 36 yards. He was clearly the Browns' best player on offense.  

Peyton's breakout game came against one of the best defensive teams in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens are known to have a punishing, physical defense, and Hillis ran over and through several players in purple-and-black on Sunday.

Through three games, Hillis leads his team in rushing yards, receptions, and total touchdowns. Unfortunately, he's leading a losing team in these categories.

The Browns are 0-3 this season, but all their losses were competitive. They have lost three games by a combined total of 12 points. They lost by three to the 2-1 Buccaneers, by two to the 3-0 Chiefs, and by seven to a 2-1 Ravens team that many picked to be in the Super Bowl before the season started.

They played these teams close but came up just short. So, what's missing?

With a strong offensive line and a great running back in Hillis, the Browns have a foundation in place. They now need to add pieces that fit around that foundation. Their biggest need right now is wide receiver.

Josh Cribbs is a great return man, but he's not much of a receiver. They should have gone after Vincent Jackson, but that ship has sailed.

The Browns will likely have a good pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and they should target a wide receiver like Georgia's A.J. Green or Alabama's Julio Jones.

The other important hole to fill in Cleveland is behind center. Today's NFL is largely driven by quarterback play. The common thread running through the rosters of all the elite teams is this: Each one has an elite quarterback.

Neither Jake Delhomme nor Seneca Wallace represents any kind of future for Cleveland. With that in mind, I think the Browns should look to test Colt McCoy in a week or two. They should also consider going after newly demoted Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb.

If neither one of those options pans out, they might want to consider drafting a quarterback instead of a receiver in the first round next year. Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallett both have a lot of potential and could be available when Cleveland is on the clock in 2011. If they took a quarterback, they would almost certainly want to focus their attention on getting receivers in the later rounds.

The best scenario for Cleveland would involve the acquisition of Kolb. He has plenty of talent and has spent time maturing under Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid. If the Browns got him in exchange for second- and third-round picks, they would be in great shape. They could then use their 2011 first-round pick on receiver A.J. Green.

Great offenses often feature stars at the quarterback, receiver, and running back positions. A trio of Kolb, Green, and Hillis could be both dynamic and effective.

But that is all imagination and speculation. As of right now, the Browns have 13 regular season games left, and they will do all they can to remain competitive.

Even though the Browns are 0-3, they do have some bright spots—particularly Hillis. They should continue to rely on him this season. He will give no less than all he's got on every down. As he grows accustomed to the role of the featured back, he'll improve each week.

Hillis is 24 years old and has carried the ball 120 times in his career, so he's got plenty of gas in the tank. He is a great running back and the kind of professional that you can build a team around.