The key to slowing down Cleveland's offense will be simple Sunday, slow down Peyton Hillis. The Jets know him well. He ran for 129 yards in 2008 at the Meadowlands while a Bronco. It was the game that began New York's late season slide and cost his current coach, Eric Mangini, his job.
It's easy to look at Hillis, a 240 pound converted fullback, and just assume he is a slow plodder. He was selected as a fullback in the seventh round of the 2008 Draft because there was no way he could develop into a complete back, right? That might be the conventional wisdom, but there was a good reason he got taken so late. In college he never got a chance to carry the ball consistently. This wasn't his fault, though. While at the University of Arkansas, Hillis was in the same backfield as current Raider Darren McFadden and current Cowboy Felix Jones. With a pair of first round picks already in the stable at tailback, a guy with Hillis' frame was best served as a fullback. NFL teams missed a chance to see him run.
When I watch Hillis, I do see a big guy who can pound it between the tackles and grind out extra yardage. i also see a deceptively quick and agile runner. Check out the burst he showed last week against the Patriots. He has also become a receiving threat out of the backfield, ranking second on the team with 30 catches and 229 yards.
The Jets need to do everything they can to take Hillis away. He is the focal point of the Cleveland offense. That means loading up the box and forcing a rookie quarterback to beat them. Old friend Chansi Stuckey is the more productive wide receiver the Browns have in the passing game this year. He would be fourth on the depth chart on this Jets team. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie should be able to take away things on the outside. The focus should be stopping the ground game. The Jets should also account for Hillis blitzing on passing downs. A rookie quarterback will look for a safe target to avoid mistakes. They should think of sending one blitzer at Hillis to prevent everybody from being caught up field.