Yesterday, the New England Patriots signed former Miami Dolphins running back Lex Hilliard. The signing of the 28-year-old special teamer has some hinting that Shane Vereen will miss the opener against the Tennessee Titans with a foot injury. Chalk him up as “questionable” or, if you are a pessimist (er, realist), “doubtful”.
Hilliard has never received much playing time as a running back for our AFC East rivals, and that’s largely because he’s not a good player. He was signed by the Minnesota Vikings this offseason under the impression that the journeyman veteran would be the team’s No. 3 running back, and he had that gig right up until the end of the preseason when the younger and more talented Jordan Todman beat him out after recovering from an injury.
A versatile, well-built back, Hilliard makes up for his lack of prowess as a rusher with his ability to do many different things as a depth player. At 240 pounds, he can play fullback and was a special teams ace for Miami. He isn’t a terrible rusher, but he’s a No. 3 RB at best. In three seasons with the ‘Fins, he rushed just 39 times and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. On the bright side, he does offer some value as a pass-catcher.
He will likely fit in as a short-term replacement for the Patriots, which is a good thing. He can fit various types of roles and can help a team as a veteran on special teams. While Hilliard isn’t a good rusher by any means, he can help the Pats out while Vereen recovers from an injury. It will be interesting to see how long he stays with the team and how the Pats utilize him. Will they give him some time at fullback? That is an interesting question to ponder.
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