When the New York Jets cut John Conner, I was a bit upset. I really liked Conner on special teams, and thought he did a serviceable job as a fullback. Not outstanding, but good enough. I also wasn't a huge fan of the signing of Lex Hilliard because a) he's bounced between teams and never really proved himself, and b) he was never trusted on the Miami Dolphins by Tony Sparano to run the ball. I'm happy to say that last night's game against the New England Patriots have changed my opinion of Mr. Hilliard.
Hilliard was one of the underrated gems of last night's game. As a fullback, he had several crushing blocks that stood up Patriot defenders. On Joe McKnight's longest run of the night, thirteen yards, to the left side, Hilliard stuffed a free rusher coming from the right side that could have blown up the play. On Mark Sanchez's tight rope touchdown throw to Dustin Keller, Hilliard forced a free rusher to run past Sanchez, giving the quarterback enough time to throw the pass. Furthermore, Hilliard ran the ball three times for fourteen yards, giving him a good 4.7 YPC average. He also caught the ball once for an eight yard gain.
Finally, Hilliard was regularly the first person on kickoffs to greet Devin McCourty. On a crucial play after the Keller touchdown, Hilliard forced the fumble by throwing his arm and shoulder into McCourty's gut, knocking the ball loose, which you can watch here.
Hilliard is clearly making an impact for the Jets, helping with the run, the pass, and special teams. Hilliard's under-the-radar excellence is certainly something to cheer for.