The San Diego Chargers added depth to their backfield by signing former Broncos and Vikings running back Ronnie Hillman.
Hillman, a former San Diego State Aztec, was released by the Vikings on Monday after playing in five games for them this season. The Chargers released WR Griff Whalen in a corresponding move.
Hillman has been in the league for five years (debuted in 2012), and crazy enough he is still only 25 years old. In 2015, he actually led the Broncos in rushing attempts (207), rushing yards (863) and rushing touchdowns (seven). With C.J. Anderson coming on in the playoffs last season, and the addition of Devontae Booker in this year’s draft, Hillman became expendable.
We've claimed former @Aztec_Football star RB Ronnie Hillman off waivers and waived WR Griff Whalen.
— San Diego Chargers (@Chargers) November 22, 2016
The Chargers have been looking for an insurance policy behind Melvin Gordon all year long. Branden Oliver (torn Achilles) was lost in the preseason, and Danny Woodhead tore his ACL in Week 2, ending his season. The Bolts did add Dexter McCluster to fill that role, but he also landed on injured reserve. Undrafted free agent Kenneth Farrow was the only backup on the roster.
Hillman is quick at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds. He can sneak between the tackles or beat you outside. He should be a nice change of pace for Gordon, and he will likely get more of an opportunity in San Diego compared to his brief time in Minnesota, where Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata split all the snaps.
After being selected in the third round by the Denver Broncos in the 2012 NFL draft, Hillman played in 48 games with the team, collecting a Super Bowl ring following the 2015 season, which happened to be his best statistically. Hillman finished his stint in Denver with 1,845 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 4.0 yards per carry. He added 67 receptions.
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Now, San Diego gets a chance to revive his career and explore the possibility of him being the future backup to Melvin Gordon, especially since Woodhead is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
Hillman spent two seasons in the backfield at San Diego State University. There, he racked up impressive numbers, including a sophomore season that saw him gain 1,711 yards on the ground. He rushed for 36 touchdowns and had a 5.7 yards per carry average in college, prompting the Broncos to spend a high pick on him.
The Chargers will need to see what he has left. With six games left in the regular season, there is time to find out soon, as the team can use Hillman to spell Gordon as soon as he gets a good grasp on the offense. This could end up being a nice under-the-radar move for the Chargers.
In other news, WR Travis Benjamin practiced on Monday and should be back on the field this Sunday against the Texans.