It doesn’t matter how many defenders you send Tyreek Hill’s way, or how much attention you give the Miami Dolphins’ new playmaker, blink at the wrong time and he’s gone.
We’ve seen him do it repeatedly during his first six years in the NFL, where he delivered six straight Pro Bowl seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs, catching 56 touchdown passes, scoring six more rushing TDs and five scores as a returner.
But don’t make the mistake thinking he’s a product of Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s offensive creativity.
I’ve witnessed it firsthand during the two organized team activity sessions the media has attended.
Hill moves at a different speed. I’ve seen fast before — but never seen a football player this fast.
He’s not only fast, but he’s quick, and that combination of top-end speed and acceleration justifies his Cheetah nickname, which he often uses when referring to himself in the third person.
Hill’s cuts are sharp, and his routes are crispy.
That explains why he’s 30 yards downfield on a slant in the middle of the field during the first 11-on-11 session of Tuesday’s hour-long practice, delivering one of the few big plays for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who handled the first-team work after Tua Tagovailoa was sent home due to an illness.
At the conclusion of the catch Hill took two steps and punted the ball into the air as if to end practice’s first big play with an exclamation point.
“He’s explosive,” Tagovailoa said in April when discussing his new toy. “He can turn a negative two-yard swing route into a 20-yard touchdown or a 20-yard gain. It’s pretty cool.”
Also pretty dangerous, which explains why the Dolphins not only traded away a treasure chest of draft picks to Kansas City, but also made Hill the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, signing him to an extension that guarantees him $72.2 million and pays him $30 million annually.
That’s franchise quarterback money, and Miami’s decision-makers are hoping Hill will provide that type of impact and leadership to the team, helping to change the course of this franchise.
They are hopeful his presence allows second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle to become the big playmaker he was at the University of Alabama, and optimistic his presence will allow Tagovailoa to blossom into the quarterback he has the potential to be in his third season as an NFL starter.
Hill has seemingly put in the work to ensure he does his part by attending every OTA session this spring.
“I signed up to work. I didn’t sign up just for the paycheck,” said Hill, who had an amicable split with Kansas City, which facilitated the trade to Miami after Hill picked the Dolphins over the New York Jets, the other bidding franchise.
“I signed up to be a team leader, [to] lead this team and show this team how I do things,” said Hill, who caught a career-high 111 receptions for 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns last season. “How I do things is I work hard, and I want the guys behind me to follow that.
“I’ve got to be that guy who’s willing to come out on the field and work hard and show these young guys how to get the job done and potentially win a Super Bowl, so that’s what I’m here for.”
Even though Hill no longer has one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes, throwing him passes, and no longer has Travis Kelce, a Hall of Fame caliber tight end, drawing coverage from him, he’s excited about the playmakers the Dolphins have and the offense Miami is building.
Waddle, whose speed and style of play could potentially open areas of the field for Hill, allowing them to play a two-man game at receiver.
Both receivers seemingly have the Dolphins defense on high alert.
“We all know they are deep threats,” safety Eric Rowe said of Hill and Waddle. “It’s great for us. I know when we played Kansas City we had a double on [Hill] and he still scored on us on a deep ball. … It’s always great to have a guy like that.”
Whether Hill, who is 28, turns out to be a successful acquisition for the Dolphins will likely depend on if he can maintain his remarkable 11.2 touchdowns per season average, which puts him in the company of Hall of Famers like Randy Moss (12 touchdowns a season), Terrell Owens (11.7), Marvin Harrison (10.6) and Jerry Rice (9.9).
If he achieves that for the majority of his five-year contract with Miami we’ll probably be talking about a sure-fire Hall of Famer, much like most of the legendary receivers.
And legendary is indeed what Hill’s striving for.
“My mindset, my confidence; I just want to get better. I’ve got too much pride in this game. I was telling somebody that the other day. I’ve got too much pride in this game. I want to get better,” Hill said. “I want to learn from coach [Mike] McDaniel. I want to learn from the OC [Frank Smith] and I want to learn from coach Wes Welker, so I’m just willing to elevate my game even more. That’s just the way I think.”