The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with a running back that was signed this offseason.
Name: Jeremy Hill
Position: Running back
Jersey number: 33
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6’1, 230 lbs.
2017 review: Coming off a productive 2016 season, Jeremy Hill entered the final year of his rookie deal as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals’ three-headed running back group alongside Giovani Bernard and Joe Mixon. Hill was the third option in the rotation and as such played around a fifth of Cincinnati’s offensive snaps through the first seven games of the year: 77 of 423 (18.2%).
Serving predominately as an early down back, Hill registered career lows in every category: 37 carries for 116 yards and four receptions for 16 yards. Leading up to the Bengals’ eighth game of the season, however, he injured his ankle in practice and shortly afterwards was placed on season-ending injured reserve – much to the chagrin of head coach Marvin Lewis, who apparently felt that Hill could have returned from the injury.
It was therefore unsurprising to see the Bengals not bring Hill back in free agency and instead move forward with Mixon and Bernard as the one-two punch at running back. However, it did not take long for the former second-round draft pick to find a new home.
2018 preview: On the third day of free agency, the Patriots signed Hill to a one-year, $1.5 million contract that includes only $150,000 in guarantees. Given the structure of the deal it is safe to say that New England does not count on the 25-year old making the team. Instead, Hill will have to earn his spot on a loaded running back depth chart that includes roster locks James White, Rex Burkhead, and Sony Michel.
With James Develin a lock at the fullback position, the Patriots appear to have only one or two open spots left in their backfield. Hill will compete against second-year Patriot Mike Gillislee, special teamer Brandon Bolden, and undrafted rookie Ralph Webb to earn one of them. It will not be easy for Hill, though, considering his lack of experience in New England’s offensive scheme and the fact that he ended 2017 on injured reserve.
That being said, he is still an intriguing option due to his combination of past productivity and size. If Hill is able to beat out Gillislee over the next two months for the role of the Patriots’ bell-cow and goal-line back, he should earn the fifth spot on the team no matter the statuses of Bolden and Webb. And while Sony Michel is the future at the position, Hill would be a solid placeholder until the first-round rookie is ready to fully carry the load.