NFL Week 6: Denver Broncos Need Peyton Hillis Now More Than Ever

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2010

DENVER - NOVEMBER 02:  Running back Peyton Hillis #22 of the Denver Broncos warms up prior to facing the Miami Dolphins during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 2, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Dolphins defeated the Broncos 26-17.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

By now, everyone knows that Peyton Hillis is the NFL's version of Chuck Norris.  He's a tough, no-nonsense, downhill running beast.  He is taking the league by storm in Cleveland, as I knew he would.

One of the biggest coaching blunders perpetrated by Josh McDaniels last season was the fact that he allowed Peyton just 13 carries in 14 games.  This was very confusing to Broncos fans, after Hillis went for 343 yards and five touchdowns in just two starts the year before.

After his breakout rookie season under Mike Shanahan, McDaniels came in and drafted Knowshon Moreno in the first round of the 2009 draft.  He then buried Hillis at the bottom of the depth chart.  He even had him playing behind Spencer Larsen at fullback. Larsen entered the league as a linebacker.

This past offseason, the Broncos ended Hillis' run in Denver by trading him and a draft pick to the Cleveland Browns for Brady Quinn.  As a lifelong Broncos fan, my first reaction to the trade was outrage.  Then, after the dust settled, I decided I was happy for Peyton and hoped he'd get a fair shot in Cleveland.

I'm very happy to see that his talents are finally being appreciated.

Now, I cannot help but wonder: Where would the Broncos be if they still had Hillis?

Well, for starters, they'd have a chance against the Jets this week.  To beat a great defense like New York's, you have to have a balanced attack.  Denver's offense is anything but balanced.

They have the worst running game in the NFL, bar none.  

Knowshon Moreno's career 3.7 yard rushing average is far from impressive.  He looked bad in the two games he played, stutter-stepping in place until defenders laid him out.

As bad as he was, Laurence Maroney and Correll Buckhalter have been worse.

Peyton Hillis is injured right now, but he would run harder than any of these three on one leg

Kyle Orton and his receivers have been very impressive in the passing game this year, but the team is horribly one-dimensional.  This has been painfully obvious in the red zone in all five games this year.

Hillis would be great in this offense, and could actually be more effective when combined with a good passing attack.  Teams playing Cleveland have focused the majority of their attention on stopping Hillis the last few weeks.  

If he were in Denver, that wouldn't be happening.  Defenses have to respect Denver's aerial attack, which would leave openings underneath for Hillis on running plays and short receiving routes.

Denver could easily be 4-1 right now, if Josh McDaniels would have accurately assessed Hillis's talent, kept him on the roster and started him at tailback.

In Denver's two losses to AFC South opponents, Jacksonville and Indianapolis, they squandered several red zone opportunities.  Hillis has emerged as one of the league's best red zone weapons, and would've helped the Broncos cash in against the Jaguars and Colts.

Denver's most convincing defeat came at the hands of the Ravens.  That just happens to be the same team that Peyton Hillis had his best game of the year against.   He had 144 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, plus he had seven receptions for 36 yards. I'm just sayin'.

McDaniels has made a lot of bold moves since he took over in Denver.  Some have paid off, many have not.  It's becoming more obvious every week that the decision to ship Hillis to Cleveland was a bad one.