Slowing Down Tyreek Hill is Paramount for Tennessee Titans Defense

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 16: Wide receiver Tyreek Hill
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 16: Wide receiver Tyreek Hill /

For the Tennessee Titans to win on Sunday, they must bottle up speedy Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill.

After falling to the fifth round as a result of off-the-field incidents, West Alabama product Tyreek Hill was selected in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. The speed demon, who recorded a 4.25 forty time at his Pro Day, was not embraced by fans from the get-go due to his history of domestic violence.

The fans didn’t like him then, but they certainly do now. In the nearly two years since he was drafted, Hill has seemingly cleaned up his act off of the field. On it, he has become one of the NFL’s most electrifying offensive players.

Last season, his rookie year, Hill was selected as a Pro Bowler and named a first-team All-Pro. In year two, he has already been named to his second Pro Bowl, and a second All-Pro selection could be coming in the next few days.

As a rookie, Hill was mainly used as a “gadget” weapon. He did most of his damage on handoffs from the backfield, kick returns, and trick plays specifically designed to get him the ball in space. This year, he has developed into a true NFL wide receiver and has embraced the role of being Alex Smith’s #1 option in the passing game.

The Chiefs offense is full of Pro Bowlers and other playmakers. Names like Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce stand out when you read through a starting lineup. However, it is Hill who serves as their offense’s heartbeat.

Hill’s speed forces defensive coordinators to make sure that, on every play, someone is playing over-the-top coverage to ensure that Hill is not able to simply run by the secondary and haul in a deep bomb. This extra defender dictated by Hill’s speed opens things up greatly for the Chiefs’ other talented skill players.

The real problem with Hill, though, is that his blazing speed allows him to win on all kinds of routes, not just downfield but in the short to intermediate areas as well. If he lines up in the slot and is being covered by a linebacker or safety, it’s over.

Additionally, Hill is a major weapon on special teams. In Training Camp, he was moved away from kickoff return duty so that he could spend more time focusing on playing receiver. He did, however, continue returning punts, taking one all the way back for a touchdown against the Houston Texans.

Now that the postseason is underway, the Chiefs will likely put their best playmaker back to return every single punt and kickoff that comes their way.

When the Tennessee Titans faced the Chiefs last season, they did not fare very well against Hill. On Kansas City’s first offensive possession, Hill took an inside handoff 68 yards for a touchdown, weaving and winding his way past members of the Titans secondary that were ultimately left in the dust.

If the Titans hope to leave Arrowhead with a postseason victory, they’ll need to do a much better job of keeping Hill bottled up.

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During the regular season, the Chiefs were 5-2 in games in which Hill eclipsed 70 receiving yards. In every game in which Hill eclipsed 80 receiving yards, the Chiefs offense scored at least 29 points.

Throughout his time with the Titans, head coach Mike Mularkey has consistently done a nice job at ensuring that opponents’ best players aren’t the ones who do the damage. Star players like Adrian Peterson, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, and T.Y. Hilton have all struggled against the Mularkey-led Titans. This week, he and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will face a tough challenge in slowing down the NFL’s fastest player.

Whether they choose to let the also speedy Adoree’ Jackson try to keep up in man coverage or continually roam safety Kevin Byard over to Hill’s side of the field, the one thing that they certainly will not do is nothing. Mularkey and LeBeau will have some sort of plan to keep Hill in check. Identifying game-wreckers is something they do really well.

The challenge, of course, will be actually executing that plan. Doing so would go a long way toward ensuring that the Titans are still playing next weekend.