Desperate times, man. They're defined by moves like these. Moves to bring in guys like Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis, both of whom are years (that's plural) removed from their best days.
The New York Giants had no choice but to sign Hillis—or at least someone like Hillis—on Wednesday. Jacobs, whom they signed in September to shore up a depleted backfield, has a hamstring injury. Da'Rel Scott has been cut after hurting his hammy. Andre Brown remains out with a broken leg, and 2012 first-round pick David Wilson is still sitting out with a rather scary neck injury. That makes Hillis and rookie Michael Cox the only healthy backs on the roster. Cox has never taken an NFL snap.
That's why Hillis has signed, per the New York Daily News and others.
Don't get your hopes up.
At 27, he isn't even old by running back terms. The problem is that he's too far removed from what appeared to be the peak of his career. When he was 24 years old with the Browns in 2010, Hillis had 1,654 yards from scrimmage. That got him on the freakin' Madden cover, but he's been missing ever since.
While with the Chiefs, Hillis ran for 101 yards against the Colts last December. That, however, was a day in which Indy also let Jamaal Charles to go for 226. And it was Hillis' first triple-digit performance in exactly a year. In 2011 and 2012 with Cleveland and Kansas City, he averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and had only two 100-yard performances in 23 tries.
During that stretch, he was riddled with injuries. He just looked like a back five years older than he actually was. That's why the Browns didn't even try to re-sign him, even after he offered them a hometown discount.
It's why he was cast aside this past offseason by a Chiefs team that was coming off a two-win season, and it's why he was released last month by the winless Buccaneers. Tampa must have felt that its running game—currently averaging only 3.8 yards per carry—couldn't benefit from Hillis' presence.
So don't expect things to be any different for him in New York. He's merely a body. A big (yet somewhat brittle), fast (yet somewhat tired) and experienced (yet somewhat worn out) body. One that can go through the motions in case of emergency, hopefully without doing more harm than good to a pass-first offense.
Hillis is a decent enough blocker, but he has given up three pressures on 41 pass-blocking snaps the last two years. He gave up only four total on 120 such snaps in 2010, but he's barely been used in blitz pickup and as a pass protector outside of that season. So don't be surprised if he's rusty there.
The point is that he might have experience, but that doesn't mean he's reliable. He's fumbled 12 times on 609 touches since the start of 2010, which is nearly twice the number of times a typical veteran back puts the ball on the ground over a duration in that range.
Obviously, the Giants liked what they saw when they brought him in Tuesday and Wednesday. Or at least he was the lesser of four evils (DJ Ware, Jeremy Wright and Ryan Torain also reportedly auditioned) in a difficult situation.
There's a chance he pulls a Jacobs and exceeds expectations, but Giants fans certainly shouldn't expect that. Every piece of evidence we have indicates that Hillis is done and can't be a top back anymore.
I think most Giants fans realize that. They know you don't find elite backs on the open market in October. They know there's a reason a 27-year-old former 1,000-yard rusher was unemployed. This backfield certainly needs a savior, but they'll probably have to wait at least until the return of Wilson (and maybe even longer than that) to get one.