Cleveland Browns: Is a Healthy Chris Ogbonnaya Better Than an Ailing Hillis?

Brian MurtaughAnalyst INovember 17, 2011

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 13: Running back Chris Ogbonnaya #25 of the Cleveland Browns runs for a gain during the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Rams defeated the Browns 13-12. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Chris Ogbonnaya and Peyton Hillis began the 2011 NFL season in two different worlds.

Hillis was quickly becoming a national superstar, as his reign as the Madden cover boy quickly boosted his popularity in the football world. Meanwhile, Ogbonnaya was working through the grind of preseason camps, hoping to land a roster spot and make a name for himself on any team that would take him.

Fast-forward to Week 11 of the 2011 season, and things are still quite different for both men.

Hillis has been a colossal disappointment and has been sidelined with injuries most of the season. Since then, Ogbonnaya has stepped into a starting role and has been a solid player, considering his limited opportunities. 

So, are the Browns actually better off with a healthy Ogbonnaya over an injured Peyton Hillis?

One would say that Ogbonnaya is not nearly the running back that Hillis was throughout the 2010 season. But, there are some major similarities that many fans overlook when thinking about the former Texas Longhorn.

Ogbonnaya is a hungry football player, looking to find a permanent home and build a supporting fanbase for the future. Hillis was in a very similar boat last season when he was traded to the Browns after a quiet stint with the Denver Broncos.

Ogbonnaya and Hillis were both no-names when they came into the Browns organization, and have both thrust into action under slightly similar circumstances.

It would be good for the Browns organization to find out what kind of runner Ogbonnaya can be for the rest of this season and the seasons beyond. It is worthy to note that Hillis still lacks a contract extension from Cleveland, and many experts think he'll sign with a different team after this year.

If Ogbonnaya can manage to find some success over the next few weeks, he could suddenly become a large part of Cleveland's offensive plans moving forward.

On the other hand, if Ogbonnaya should fail miserably, it would be a good thing for the Browns to have a lackluster rushing attack against the Jaguars and have a healthy Hillis against Baltimore and Pittsburgh late in the season.

So far this season, Ogbonnaya has 46 rushing attempts for 170 yards and no scores. Hillis has carried 60 times for 211 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, Hillis is the only Browns running back to score a touchdown this entire season.

Whether Browns fans like it or not, Ogbonnaya will likely get his opportunities in the coming weeks, and the sports world will know once and for all if he has what it takes to play professional football.

Hillis will be on the sideline yet again nursing his injured leg, and Cleveland will be questioning every move each player makes for the rest of the 2011 season.