Unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, the team has had more than their fair share of significant knee injuries, with David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, and Robert Tonyan all missing substantial amounts of time over the past season-plus. An ACL tear also cut second-year running back Kylin Hill‘s rookie campaign short in October. And while players like Bakhtiari, Jenkins, and Tonyan have established roles that they’ll be looking to fall back into, Hill’s return could create a wild-card dynamic that would be very welcome on both offense and special teams.
Hill joined the likes of Jenkins, Tonyan, and Bakhtiari on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list at the start of training camp. Given that his ACL injury was only 10 months ago, he might stay there for a while. Green Bay has some intriguing names in competition for the role of third-string running back behind Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Undrafted rookie free agents Tyler Goodson and B.J. Baylor will do everything they can to make the 53-man roster come September.
NFL rosters churn over week after week, especially at a position as volatile as running back, so having capable talent to use in a pinch is important, whether it’s down low on the 53-man depth chart or grinding on the practice squad week after week. However, there have been just enough flashes with Hill that he could be a lot more than a name on a depth chart and potentially flourish into much more. The best-case scenario for Hill is that he can return from his injury and perform at such a high level that Green Bay feels good about slotting him in as an Aaron Jones replacement once Jones’ contract gets a bit tough to swallow in 2023 and beyond.
In the meantime, we have his body of work at Mississippi State, which is easy to fall in love with. He had an impressive 2021 preseason with the Packers and 10 carries, 10 kick returns, and one reception in his eight healthy games this past season.
What can be gleaned from the early days of training camp is minimal, as Hill’s inclusion on the PUP list precludes him from fully competing in practice. Thus, we’re forced to rely on the eyes and ears of Packers media about what we might be able to expect from Hill this season.
For example, here’s an eight-second Twitter video of Kylin Hill running in a straight line if you’re looking for something to overreact to.
This summer, Packers running back coach Ben Sirmans was complimentary towards the rehab and Hill’s approach as he tries to prepare for a hopefully healthy second year in the NFL.
“He’s done a great job really of doing more with trying to learn the offense,” Sirmans said to Packers.com. “Physically, he’s doing all that’s asked of him. I think he’s a little hungrier. He understands what’s expected of him as a pro. Sometimes, as a rookie, you’re trying to get a feel for your environment and what’s going on around you. I expect that he’ll be a lot more on point this year.”
If Hill can return healthy and productive, there’s a role waiting for him. Green Bay has been waiting for a dynamic kick returner to emerge for years, but a shifty change-of-pace third-down back would also be critically important. Given how much the Packers will be relying on the run game, Jones and Dillon are bound to pick up some bumps and bruises here and there.
Logic would indicate that that third running back spot is one that a healthy Kylin Hill should be able to seize. The progress seems to be trending in that direction, and, if everything falls into place, Hill could become a dynamic addition to both the offense and special teams.