The Dallas Cowboys officially added RB Ronnie Hillman to their backfield yesterday – a move that Head Coach Jason Garrett assured the media was not a reaction to any incoming Ezekiel Elliott suspension news.
When looking at both how the Cowboys have utilized their backs so far in training camp along with Ronnie Hillman’s 2016 tape as a Minnesota Viking and San Diego Charger, its easy to believe Coach Garrett – as Hillman could be an improvement over the aging Alfred Morris, who’s already seen Rod Smith surpass him on the depth chart this offseason.
The Cowboys certainly need capable running backs to carry them through the remainder of camp and five preseason games, but Ronnie Hillman could be here to stay and do much more. Let’s take a look at his scouting report.
Hillman has experience running in a zone blocking scheme similar to the one Dallas deploys as the feature back for the 2015 Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
The San Diego State products’ decline in production was steady that season though, and in 2016 he found himself playing just eight games and receiving 41 carries.
Ronnie Hillman would have to be the Cowboys’ latest reclamation project out of the backfield, but his limited 2016 tape still shows plenty of positive traits.
While Ronnie may not make many defenders miss at the second level, he still possesses above average vision and lateral quickness to locate proper running lanes and hit them with some power.
Balance appeared to be an issue for Hillman, which limited him from consistently hitting on big plays, but when given a chance to get his feet under him with some speed you will see the crafty Hillman change directions quickly and get up the field.
Ronnie Hillman will go down on first contact quite a bit, which fortunately occurred against linebackers more times than not as a Charger and Viking thanks to his initial vision. The Cowboys’ stellar offensive line should provide more opportunities for Hillman to gain a step on these linebackers and finish with more power against them at the very least.
Far too often was Hillman stopped in his tracks and pushed backwards on his rushing attempts.
As a pass catcher, Hillman is a pretty smooth route runner that will catch anything accurate thrown his way. He’s certainly not an elite receiver, but Hillman secures the ball up the field and shows off some burst on his receptions to the boundary.
These receiving skills already make Hillman more valuable than Alfred Morris, as well as a viable option on third down for Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan over Darren McFadden or UDFA Jahad Thomas.
Entering 2017 with America’s Team at just 26 years old, Hillman may still prove to have a lot left in the tank to legitimately help the Cowboys as a camp signing at RB. Dallas’ personnel department has done an amazing job getting the team to this point, and they have not stopped for a second in constantly trying to improve a deep and talented roster.
Ronnie Hillman could be the Cowboys latest example of this as a tough and multidimensional RB with some big play ability.