When running back Derrick Henry went down last season, the Titans examined their options as to how to fill his role. They first tried Adrian Peterson, but when it was evident that the future Hall of Famer didn’t have much left in the tank, the job fell to the duo of Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman.
Foreman has since moved on to Carolina, signing there as an offseason free agent.
But Hilliard has made a more lasting impression, claiming the role as the Titans primary third-down back, pushing Darrynton Evans, a third-round pick in 2020, out the door in the process.
Hilliard was a player Mike Vrabel and the coaching staff felt had some additional abilities as a receiver out of the backfield, and in the opening loss to the Giants, Hilliard rewarded their faith with three catches for 61 yards and the first two receiving touchdowns of his NFL career.
“We built up a lot of confidence in Dontrell (Hilliard) over last season when he joined us and we had the whole spring so we were able to move around a little bit. He showed up big for us today, one down or two down in the red zone,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said of Hilliard Sunday. “But he does a good job for us on third downs, and he has some natural feel and ability to be able to get himself open.”
Hilliard, who had bounced from Cleveland to Houston to out of the league when the Titans signed him last year, gives the credit to the coaching staff for giving him the opportunity to show what he could do.
“It’s up to the coaches. When my number is called, I’m ready and I just try to take advantage of it,” Hilliard said. “I appreciate them trusting me to allow me to do what I need to do.”