The Broncos played 10 different cornerbacks in 2020 and recently cut their starting boundary corner A.J. Bouyé. To call the position a dire need is an understatement.
It’s the most obvious need on the team and one that George Paton will surely address at some point this off-season.
Fortunately the veteran market looks like it will be loaded at the position this March, so Paton has options if he goes that route. One that makes a ton of sense is Troy Hill.
Troy Hill, Cornerback, Los Angeles Rams
Weight: 183 lbs.
Experience: 6 NFL Seasons
Hill signed with the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and played in three games before he was waived. After a five-day stint with the Patriots, Bill Belichick cut the cornerback, and Hill was claimed by the St. Louis Rams.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Hill was targeted 61 times in 2020. He allowed 37 receptions for 389 yards and one touchdown and broke up eight passes. He also a forced fumble, recovered one fumble for a touchdown, and scored touchdowns off two of his three picks. He also dropped two other interceptions.
Why it makes sense
Denver has a pressing short-term need for a cornerback and Hill isn’t only a clean fit, but he learned from a Fangio protege and would bring a fundamental understanding of the Broncos’ defense. He has the requisite physical skills and mental processing to step in and thrive right away. Hill can play on the boundary or slot, which means he’d easily fit alongside Michael Ojemudia and Bryce Callahan.
Brandon Staley’s defense was among the best in football a year ago running a variant of the Fangio system, and it relied on Troy Hill as a starting corner. The former Ram is an obvious scheme fit for the Broncos defense and offers inside/out versatility. Signing him could give Fangio additional flexibility to match up against the top receiving corps in the league. Hill’s prowess as a slot corner would also serve as very good depth behind Callahan, who’s never played an entire 16-game season.
On top of what Hill can provide the 2021 Broncos, he could survive a potential scheme change if Paton fires the Broncos’ coaching staff after this season. Over the course of his career with the Rams Hill’s played for Gregg Williams, Wade Phillips, or Brandon Staley. While Hill has seen the most success under Staley, he served as CB3 for Phillips’ defense that puts an emphasis on man coverage, even starting nine games when Aqib Talib missed time in 2019. While Los Angeles dismissed Phillips after the 2019 season, his pass defense finished among the eight best in football.
While Hill broke his thumb last December, he fought through it. Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams played fewer snaps than Hill last year. In fact, John Johnson is the only Rams defender to play more than him in 2020.
Why it doesn’t make sense
It doesn’t take long to realize Hill is actually the third best corner on the Rams defense. Darious Williams is an emerging star who locked down the boundary while Ramsey was used in Staley’s Star position.
“It’s just getting him where the action is,” Staley said. “Where he can impact the game, whether it’s pushing the coverage away from him, or whether it’s getting him closer to the action and make more plays from the slot, impact the game that way by being literally closer to the action. We feel like that’s where we start normally.”
Hill turns 30 in August, an age when corners typically begin to decline. He’s had a couple of notable off field incidents that are worth documenting: Hill was suspended for a DUI arrest in 2017 and arrested in 2013 for “menacing and fourth degree assault,” which probably played a role in him going undrafted in 2015.
While he logged more snaps than Ramsey and Williams last season it was due in part to the Staley defense basing out of nickel personnel. Hill’s been a role player for most of his career. Last season was the first time he’s ever started more than nine games in the NFL. When he played for Wade Phillips his playing time peaked at 49% of the snaps.
It is worth mentioning that of Hill’s three interceptions in 2020, two came against Carson Wentz and Chris Streveller. Wentz was among the worst starting quarterbacks in football a year ago, while Streveller is a former CFL champion who saw his first extended action in week 17.
After a championship with Winnipeg you could say Chris Streveler bombed his first real opportunity in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/62I3WE4lbU— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) February 21, 2021
Hill is one of my favorite free agents on the market because of how easily he addresses the Broncos needs. There’s also reason to believe there will be competition for his services. Corners who can survive and thrive on the boundary and inside are valuable in today’s NFL, and the Fangio scheme has now spread across L.A. and east to Green Bay. The Rams, Chargers, and Packers could all see Hill as an appealing option.
Every year teams make the mistake of overpaying a player for what he did in an ideal situation instead of what he’d provide in a new one. There’s little to no evidence to suggest Troy Hill will singlehandedly fix the Broncos secondary, but if Paton signs him to shore up the nickel personnel for the short term? He’s a good scheme fit who provides enough inside/outside versatility to also serve as depth for Bryce Callahan.
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