Goober Pyle

‘Hungry’ Brian Hill is ready to carve out role for Falcons in 2019

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https://theathletic.com/1136045/2019/08/13/hungry-brian-hill-is-ready-to-carve-out-role-for-falcons-in-2019/

 

Brian Hill walked off the scorched practice field with his face doused in sweat. With the heat index above 100 degrees, Hill was still among the final few players to wrap up his final individual drill in what’s called the Plan D period. For Hill, who is entering his third NFL season, it’s all about finding ways to be better than where he was the previous two years.

If Hill is to carve out a role with this year’s Falcons team, he figured it would need to be by working on his deficiencies. Thus far, the results have been positive.

“If I wanted to be better, I had to improve,” Hill said. “I’ve been through two camps so far and have been cut twice. I needed to look at myself and change something.”

The Falcons selected Hill in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. While he initially made the 53-man roster, he dealt with a lingering wrist injury, didn’t log a carry and was waived that October. After he was added to Atlanta’s practice squad shortly, the Cincinnati Bengals eventually snatched him up and carried him for the duration of the season.

But after what Hill described as a much better preseason in 2018, Cincinnati parted ways with him during final cuts. He then was presented the choice of choosing the Atlanta or Cincinnati practice squads. He chose Atlanta.

Biding his time, Hill eventually was called up to Atlanta’s 53-man roster, with injuries forcing him into an extended role against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16. Hill shined, carrying the ball eight times for 115 yards. Wanting more touches this season, Hill’s personal offseason program changed.

“I had to put in more time and more hours in,” Hill said. “Hopefully, it’s starting to pay off right now.”

Hill has been one of Atlanta’s preseason stars. With Devonta Freeman sitting out the first two preseason games, Hill has logged 19 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown. More impressively, Hill has shown the ability to make plays as a receiver out of the backfield.

He caught a touchdown against the Denver Broncos and has also made a number of plays in practice as a receiving option.

Hill said each workout he puts in has a purpose. He has carved out extra time to catch passes. If he’s running sprints, he’s no longer running 30 yards in a straight line. Hill now incorporates cuts in between 5-yard bursts, to simulate the movements he would make on a football field.

“This year I wanted to focus on things I would actually be doing on the field,” Hill said. “Whenever I’m doing movement or conditioning, I always want to implement footwork. I need to be able to stay on my feet. I don’t want to just run to be running, to be conditioning.”

Quarterback Matt Ryan has seen a different Hill at practice compared to the one who joined the team in 2017.

“I think he’s hungry, you can tell that,” Ryan said. “Every day, he steps onto the practice field, there’s a real intent for him to get better. That, to me, has been impressive to see.”

Hill’s story from high school to the NFL is certainly an interesting one. Hill wasn’t highly recruited out of Belleville West in Illinois for two reasons, he said. To start, Hill was forced to sit out his sophomore season after transferring high schools. And then as a junior, Hill said he had a “sub-par” season compared to the campaign he put in as a senior. Therefore, there weren’t any big schools clamoring for him.

At the time, one of the only schools recruiting him as a running back was North Dakota State, which is where his cousin Pierre Gee-Tucker, a linebacker, played. But after the 2013 college football season, Wyoming hired head coach Craig Bohl away from North Dakota State, with receivers coach Kenni Burns, who was recruiting Hill, making the move, too.

Bohl’s Wyoming staff then extended an offer to Hill, which he accepted. And in only three years, Hill became the leading career rusher in Wyoming football history with 4,287 yards.

He learned a lot from his sophomore and junior years at Wyoming, which rank as the top two for the program in single-season rushing seasons.

As a sophomore, quarterback Josh Allen — now with the Buffalo Bills — was injured in the second game of the season. The offense suddenly was tailored around Hill, who saw stacked boxes each week. Still, Hill was able to run for 1,631 yards and six touchdowns.

“It was more of I needed to get through the line of scrimmage before they break through our line of scrimmage,” Hill said. “I need to get on the other side.”

With Allen back the next year, Wyoming was able to spread teams out a little more. That freed things up for Hill as he faced mostly seven-man boxes. His yardage total jumped to 1,860, and he scored 22 touchdowns.

“It was more seven-man boxes — man on man, block on block, no overloads,” Hill said. “I could just read it out and then explode. I feel like that definitely helped my vision and helped to know my blocking schemes by the end; it was my third year so I was pretty knowledgeable with the playbook.”

Hill believes those seasons helped prepare him for the NFL since he could package the need to beat the defense at the jump with following his blocks.

Hill elected to enter the NFL draft after his junior year and expected to be a second-day selection. But as the draft spilled over to Saturday, Hill’s name went uncalled. Angry about it, Hill didn’t watch the third day of the draft and spent the afternoon playing NBA 2K. Suddenly, his phone rang, and at first, he wasn’t sure who it was.

Hill remembers being in a bad mood when he answered his phone. A few moments later he realized it was Falcons head coach Dan Quinn.

“I remember I had an attitude or something, and then I realized I was talking to the Falcons,” Hill said. “I cheered up real quick, just knowing I finally made that dream come true, getting to the league.”

He let his confident side show to the Atlanta media on a conference call shortly after, declaring that the Falcons “just got the best running back in this draft in the fifth round.” Fifteen running backs were selected before him, including Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, James Conner and Marlon Mack.

To this day, Hill stands by the statement he made then.

“I wholeheartedly believe in my abilities on the field,” Hill said. “I don’t really care who the competition is. That’s why we’re here in the league. That’s why we compete. There’s no way I’m going to sit here and say somebody’s better.”

Hill, however, did admit his confidence was shaken each of the times he was released. But, as he mentioned, he bounced back with opportunities shortly after. Now, Hill has his best opportunity for an extended role in front of him. While Ito Smith has worked as the No. 2 running back all preseason, Hill has continued competing for the spot. Quinn has gone as far as to say that while Freeman is the top dog, everyone else is grouped together.

And to his credit, Hill has been one of the most exciting players for Atlanta this preseason.

“He’s making everyone better, not only himself,” receiver Julio Jones said. “The defense has to chase him; they’re getting their conditioning in, they have to take the right angles to pursue, everything. He’s doing a **** of a job for us here.”

While Hill has put forth a good preseason to date, he isn’t getting ahead of himself. Asked about his expectation for the upcoming season, his first response was that he hopes to make the team. And therein lies the reason why Hill was dripping sweat when walking off of the practice field Tuesday afternoon.

He’s nowhere near finished with where he wants to be.

“I just know nothing is promised,” Hill said. “You have to go out there and earn it. No matter what I did over the last two games, I have to go three more and go perform.”

 

 

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1 minute ago, PokerSteve said:

Great article. He's definitely putting in the work and not much doubt about the hunger. Don't see how he won't be getting some reps as our 3rd back in regular season if he continues to play the way he's been playing.

I'm truly hoping for a Pats style rushing attack. Depending on the game/match up will let them decide who the "lead" back is. Freeman is a great all around back, but Ito and Hill and Barner and Ollison all provide unique things that can give some defenses fits and they should exploit that. 

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7 minutes ago, vel said:

I'm truly hoping for a Pats style rushing attack. Depending on the game/match up will let them decide who the "lead" back is. Freeman is a great all around back, but Ito and Hill and Barner and Ollison all provide unique things that can give some defenses fits and they should exploit that. 

Absolutely agree. Take full advantage of their diverse running styles. Will give defenses fits.

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5 minutes ago, vel said:

I'm truly hoping for a Pats style rushing attack. Depending on the game/match up will let them decide who the "lead" back is. Freeman is a great all around back, but Ito and Hill and Barner and Ollison all provide unique things that can give some defenses fits and they should exploit that. 

RBBC is better for the RB’s health, too

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11 minutes ago, vel said:

I'm truly hoping for a Pats style rushing attack. Depending on the game/match up will let them decide who the "lead" back is. Freeman is a great all around back, but Ito and Hill and Barner and Ollison all provide unique things that can give some defenses fits and they should exploit that. 

Serious question what is Hill's unique thing? I dont see it. That's my problem with him.

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12 minutes ago, Yo_Lover said:

Serious question what is Hill's unique thing? I dont see it. That's my problem with him.

He has very good burst and vision and runs with violent intentions. The same stuff I liked him out of college for. Then he let me down and I didn’t like him. He’s redeemed himself with me so far. 

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Just now, TheFatboi said:

He has very good burst and vision and runs with violent intentions. The same stuff I liked him out of college for. Then he let me down and I didn’t like him. He’s redeemed himself with me so far. 

I can see the burst but the "violent" stuff I don't see. The few times he's been physical he just goes out of bounds or got a penalty.

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17 minutes ago, Yo_Lover said:

Serious question what is Hill's unique thing? I dont see it. That's my problem with him.

Good combo of size and speed.

To your point, that hasn’t translated (not yet, anyway) into him becoming that power back we’ve needed here for years. 

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2 minutes ago, Yo_Lover said:

I can see the burst but the "violent" stuff I don't see. The few times he's been physical he just goes out of bounds or got a penalty.

5 of the last 7 runs are great from a backup RB

 

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3 minutes ago, TheFatboi said:

He has very good burst and vision and runs with violent intentions. The same stuff I liked him out of college for. Then he let me down and I didn’t like him. He’s redeemed himself with me so far. 

Same here. I gotta see more, but that hesitation we saw his rookie year seems to be gone. 

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1 minute ago, Vandy said:

Good combo of size and speed.

To your point, that hasn’t translated (not yet, anyway) into him becoming that power back we’ve needed here for years. 

His size doesn't even impress me though he's been said to have slimmed down, **** man he's my size. 

His speed and burst I could see but it's not something Free, Ito, Barner dont have.

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3 minutes ago, Vandy said:

Same here. I gotta see more, but that hesitation we saw his rookie year seems to be gone. 

I will give him that. I say he only goes as far as the blocks take him but at least he is reading the blocks and following them. @TheFatboi would you say he has nice vision?

Edit : just noticed you did say that

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2 minutes ago, Vandy said:

Same here. I gotta see more, but that hesitation we saw his rookie year seems to be gone. 

Exactly. He’s hitting the hole with much more confidence now. The hesitation is gone. He plants his foot and goes. 

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1 minute ago, Yo_Lover said:

I will give him that. I say he only goes as far as the blocks take him but at least he is reading the blocks and following them. @TheFatboi would you say he has nice vision?

Edit : just noticed you did say that

Yes I love his vision. I liked it out of college. But his hesitation his rookie year caused him to get caught in the hole. Same with how ollison was the HOF game. He didn’t hesitate the last game and it made a world of difference. 

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5 minutes ago, Yo_Lover said:

His size doesn't even impress me though he's been said to have slimmed down, **** man he's my size. 

His speed and burst I could see but it's not something Free, Ito, Barner dont have.

The dude is pretty stout bro, especially in his lower body/legs.

And you’re only his size following a Mexican meal from Amigos. :ninja:

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1 minute ago, TheFatboi said:

Exactly. He’s hitting the hole with much more confidence now. The hesitation is gone. He plants his foot and goes. 

I can concede that. To me he's an average back, nothing special. Personally I'd rather have a specialist kind of guy someone who has something they excell at (White - passing game, Blount - power. Etc)

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8 minutes ago, Yo_Lover said:

Dude if you can't tell me a unique trait then dont reply.

He lacks COD and often hesitated making his first read and not being decisive.  .  For some reason he does it better with more touches.  I definitely think he is a confidence RB.  The more you feed him the better the results.  

But he has great speed for his size and is quite dominant once he gets to the 2nd level.  He is also a punisher once he is in the 2nd level

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Just now, Vandy said:

The dude is pretty stout bro, especially in his lower body/legs.

And you’re only his size following a Mexican meal from Amigos. 

Lol I try to stay around 215lbs. He was at 218lbs and said he's lost some so he's around me.

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Just now, FalconsIn2020 said:

He lacks COD and his limiting attribute is reading his blocker.  For some reason he does it better with more touches.  I definitely think he is a confidence RB.  The more you feed him the ether the results.  

But he has great speed for his size and is quite dominant once he gets to the 2nd level.  He is also a punisher once he is in the 2nd level

Where is this dominant at? Lol

And again his physical runs end with him out of bounds or with a flag. He's not physical if he just goes out lol

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