Holmgren likes versatility of Hillis, Hardesty

Posted March 17, 2011 @ 4:17 p.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

If the Browns enter 2011 with Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty as their top running backs, team president Mike Holmgren would have no problem with that scenario.

"I could get real excited about that," Holmgren told Cleveland reporters on March 14. "That's a good combination for this reason — I think they both have excellent ball skills, catching the ball and running skills. So you don't have to have one guy as the runner, one guy as the catcher, one guy as the blocker, you don't have to do that.

'They both have to be willing to do all those things for each other. If those are the two in the game at the same time, they have to block for each other and they have to do everything. I think they are capable of doing that. I hope I get a chance to see that."

Hillis had a remarkable 2010 season, rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 TDs on 270 carries (all team-highs) and finishing second on the club with 61 catches. Hardesty missed the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the Browns' preseason finale. Holmgren said Hardesty, one of the Browns' second-round picks last April, is on pace to be ready for the start of the season, noting that "he feels good, and we have our fingers crossed that he can stay healthy."

If healthy, Hardesty could lighten Hillis' workload. Hillis received 78.9 percent of all of the carries that went to Browns running backs last season.

Hardesty wasn't a major pass-catching threat at Tennessee, but he did haul in a career-high 25 passes as a senior, compared to a combined 13 catches in the previous three seasons.