Hillis forced to carry the load in Giants' ground game
There would be at least a couple of weeks of practice, a few carries in a game and eventually the chance to carry the load. This isn't one of those times for the Giants (1-6).
With David Wilson (neck) and Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) sidelined, Hillis is the Giants' running game, ready or not.
Signed last week, Hillis was forced to run 18 times and handle the majority of snaps in the Giants' 23-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night.
"I expect that [the soreness] is going to be here for a couple more weeks, but I have to work through it and try to produce," Hillis said after practice.
Having Hillis carry the load this week might be pushing it. While he was on Tampa Bay's roster for the first few weeks of the season, he didn't play. His carries on Monday were his first this season.
Jacobs, who was sidelined for the Vikings game, tweaked his hamstring late in the fourth quarter against the Bears. He had been used sparingly after being signed in September and was injured on a night he carried 22 times. Prior to that, he had 22 carries in four games.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride knows he is asking a lot from Hillis, but he doesn't have many options. There are only three healthy running backs on the roster, including fullback John Conner and rookie halfback Michael Cox, who got his first 11 carries of his career on Monday and his inexperience showed.
The other thing working in Hillis' favor is knowing the Bucs offense. It was put in by former Giants assistant Mike Sullivan and much of the terminology is the same.
"That certainly expedited the learning curve a little bit, but not everybody could have done what he did. I think the thing that was really impressive was the physicality that he brought to the game," Gilbride said of Hillis, who ran for 1,177 yards with the Browns in 2010. "He turned north-south on a couple of those catches. It's something we need as an offense. It's nice to be finesse. It's nice to throw the ball, but it's nice to show that physical prowess, too."
The 27-year-old Hillis believes he can play better. He was slow hitting some holes.
"I think that, especially me, when you get in the groove of things and start going through it bit-by-bit, day-by-day and week-by-week, you get slowly better," said Hillis, who ran for 36 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 45 more. "I expect to do that. I expect that this Sunday is going to be a lot better for me, too."
The other impressive job that Hillis did was to pick up the blitzes coming at Eli Manning on third down.
"He's a pro," guard Kevin Boothe said.