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Speed is the ‘easy answer’ when describing Kansas City Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs Blog



KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Between his many long touchdowns, his talk of races against Usain Bolt and trying to make the U.S. Olympic team as a sprinter, it’s easy to know Tyreek Hill only for his world-class speed.

Hill is fast. He ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash as he was preparing to enter the 2016 NFL draft, and in his seventh season with the Kansas City Chiefs, he doesn’t look like he has slowed much, if at all.

But knowing Hill only for his speed ahead of the Chiefs’ Sunday night matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC) is getting only part of the story.

“It’s easy to say his speed,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said when asked what qualities make Hill one of the NFL’s top wide receivers. “But that’s the easy answer.”

Indeed, there’s more to Hill’s game than speed and more to the big plays.

Hill ranks second in the league in receptions (68) and fifth in receiving yards this season (772). He ranks ninth this season with average separation above expectations of .20 seconds. At 5-foot-10, he doesn’t have a height advantage over most opponents, but he tends to get an advantage from the snap even if the nearest defender is on him right away.

“He’s one of the best in the league at the line of scrimmage,” ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen said. “His lateral change of direction ability, his ability to set up a defensive back, allows him to get into the routes with more speed and to run away from coverage. He creates that instant separation and then you get into that immediate burst and then the long speed, which allows him to create explosive plays.

“He’s excellent after the catch, too. His catch-and-run ability is near the top of the league. That’s why you see Kansas City throw so many quicks, so many unders, and use him on wide receivers screens. That all allows him to play to his ability to attack open grass.”

Chiefs wide receivers coach Joe Bleymaier said, “He doesn’t let the defender reroute him or force him anywhere he doesn’t want to go.”

Hill also appears to get in and out of his breaks on his pass routes at or near top speed. He doesn’t seem to slow when he makes a cut.

“When you watch him sync his hips and transitions in and out of breaks, it’s amazing to see,” Bieniemy said. “You look at it sometimes and wonder, ‘How did he come out of that?’ Those are the things he works on.”

Since joining the Chiefs, Hill has showed a talent for making plays downfield, even when he has been well covered. In those cases, he has adjusted to the ball better than the defensive back in his area.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has frequently cited this ability as one of Hill’s best, saying he would make an excellent baseball center fielder.

“The thing that amazes me the most is that he’s fast and quick, but it’s his endurance while being fast and quick,” Reid said. “Normally, you don’t see that. I tell him that he has this ‘Cheetah’ nickname, but he is really not a cheetah because they’re normally a burst and then they go rest for about eight hours. That’s not this guy. He can keep going, over and over again. It’s pretty amazing.

“He’s got a unique combination [of skills].”

Bowen said, “He doesn’t slow down when the ball is in the air. There are three guys who fit into that group. It’s Tyreek Hill, it’s Antonio Brown and it’s DeSean Jackson. They are faster when the ball is in the air because they don’t break stride. They have great ball-tracking ability.”

Hill played a lot at running back in college and looks like one when he runs with the ball after the catch. His speed and quickness help, but he also usually makes good decisions about where to go with the ball.

“That’s why you see him get the ball on reverses and jets, because he has great vision,” Bowen said. “He turns into a running back after the catch and that’s a special trait for a wide receiver to have. There aren’t many wide receivers who have it.”

Hill said his understanding of defenses and their coverages has helped him grow as a receiver since he joined the Chiefs in 2016. The wide receivers coach at the time was David Culley, now the head coach of the Houston Texans.

Culley taught Hill to see the entire secondary before the snap and not just the cornerback covering him.

“He always told me the good [receivers], they see one safety, but the great ones, they see the whole field, like the corners and the safeties,” Hill said. “I always try to keep that in my mind when I line up. I always try to see what the other corner is doing and both safeties are doing before I line up.”

Hill’s signature plays are the ones that go for big yards, but he has been affected by the Chiefs’ offensive slump as much as anyone. He has seven catches this season of 20 or more yards, all coming in the first four games of the season. He had 10 such catches through nine games last year.

But Bowen said he doesn’t see a player on the decline when he watches the 2021 version of Hill.

“I know he’s had a couple of drops that led to interceptions. But in terms of production and his impact on the overall game and the consistent conflict he places on the defense, there’s been no drop-off in his game. He’s still one of the best.”

More likely, the decline in Hill’s numbers are a symptom of a larger problem with quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the offense. To the Chiefs and safety Tyrann Mathieu, he’s still one of the best.

“Most players are competitive, but he has competitive greatness,” Mathieu said. “What I mean by that is in tough situations, critical moments, only a few people can make certain plays. He’s one of those players.

“The only way you can cover him is to have that competitive greatness yourself. You have to know the ball is coming to him and in your mind you believe you can make the play. You just have to match his energy, his attitude, and that’s hard to do. He’s on another level most of the time.”

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Teddy Bridgewater shows ‘toughness’ in return from injury as Broncos beat Chargers



DENVER — When Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater limped back into the huddle Sunday with a lower right leg injury, he helped the Broncos stay in the AFC’s jumbled playoff race.

So much so that the Broncos, now 6-5 after a 28-14 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Empower Field at Mile High, will face the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday night in Arrowhead Stadium with a chance to move into first place in the AFC West.

“When you win it doesn’t really matter what you’re going through, you feel good,” Bridgewater said. ” … We’ll see how I feel in the morning.”

“Teddy’s toughness is unquestioned when you talk about him and I didn’t question it in the big picture,” said Broncos coach Vic Fangio. “And like I said, some have you have asked me, he’s our quarterback and it’s as simple as that.”

Bridgewater will be evaluated more Monday morning.

Bridgewater, who had come under criticism after the Broncos’ Nov. 14 loss to the Philadelphia when he didn’t attempt to tackle Eagles cornerback Darius Slay on a fumble return for a touchdown, finished 11-of-18 passing for 129 yards and a touchdown Sunday. But it wasn’t the rather pedestrian-looking numbers that continue to endear Bridgewater to his teammates, it’s what they see as his burning desire to help them win.

After the loss to the Eagles, Bridgewater’s teammates vigorously supported him, as well as Fangio, as many cited Bridgewater’s severe leg injury in 2016 — Bridgewater’s surgeon later publicly said the damage was so severe amputation was a concern — as proof of his toughness to return to play.

Bridgewater suffered the injury Sunday when he was sacked by Chargers’ safety Derwin James Jr. with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Bridgewater limped to the sideline, was examined by the team’s medical staff and taken for an X-ray.

“[It] swells up real quick … he had to take some tests to make sure nothing was happening underneath it,” Fangio said. ” … He toughed it out, he was nowhere near 100 percent in that second half, but he toughed it out and led the offense.”

“I still don’t really know what happened, I just know Derwin kind of got me from behind,” Bridgewater said. ” … I’ll watch it [Monday].”

Drew Lock finished out the first half, as the Broncos finished out the drive Bridgewater was injured with a touchdown eight plays later. But Lock was sacked once and threw an interception in his limited duty that led to the Chargers’ first touchdown.

Asked if it would have made it easier to leave Lock in the game and play it safe on Bridgewater had Lock not throw the interception, into double coverage, Fangio simply said “no.”

Bridgewater returned in the second half and eventually led the Broncos on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that gave Denver a 21-7 lead with 8:54 to play in the game. He converted two key third downs on the drive — a third-and-7 to go with a third-and-10 — with completions to wide receiver Courtland Sutton and running back Javonte Williams, respectively.

Bridgewater did it in a game when the Broncos also lost two more starters in the offensive line – left tackle Calvin Anderson (left knee) and left guard Dalton Risner (back) leave the game with injuries. Anderson was already playing in place of Garett Bolles, who is on the COVID-19 reserve list.

By game’s end center Lloyd Cushenberry III was the only Week 1 starter in the offensive line who was in the lineup.

“We never question [Bridgewater’s] toughness,” tight end Eric Saubert said of Bridgewater. “That guy he does it all, he pushes through a lot and he’s done it all season.”

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Dolphins rookie Jaylen Waddle establishing himself as a No. 1 receiver – Miami Dolphins Blog



MIAMI — Jaylen Waddle was the last Miami Dolphins player to enter the news conference room Sunday after the team’s 33-10 romp against the Carolina Panthers. He was fresh off a nine-catch, 137-yard performance — and he was dressed like it.

Waddle wore a black-and-white checkered hoodie with a red shirt underneath, white designer jeans with red splatter on them and a spotless pair of Nike Air Force 1 shoes. He even kept his black Ray-Ban sunglasses perched atop his nose; when you play like that, you can wear whatever you want.

The Dolphins rookie has cemented himself as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver during its current four-game winning streak, compiling 346 yards and a touchdown on 29 catches. He has 77 catches for 759 yards and four touchdowns, and is one of seven players in the NFL with more than 100 targets. He is on pace for 109 receptions, which would surpass the only other rookie in league history with 100 or more catches — Anquan Boldin — who had 101 in 2003 with the Arizona Cardinals.

“Preparation, practice,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said of Waddle’s emergence. “I think we worked at it and worked at it and worked at it, and we’ve been able to string some good weeks together from a practice standpoint, and you’re seeing that show up in the game.”

Miami traded up to draft him at No. 6 overall in this year’s draft, in an effort to rekindle some of the chemistry that made Waddle and Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a potent tandem at Alabama. While the early results were promising — Waddle was the team’s leading receiver entering Week 12 — Sunday’s victory felt like an official arrival, of sorts.

And it surprisingly came against the NFL’s best pass defense.

The Panthers had allowed 174.2 passing yards per game entering Week 12, playing more man coverage than all but three teams in the NFL. Tagovailoa picked them apart underneath, completing 23 of 24 passes of 10 or fewer air yards for 141 of his 230 total passing yards Sunday.

The second-year passer said it was Carolina’s coverage tendencies that made his efficient day possible.

“They played a lot of man, and when they did play zone, we tried to take advantage of in-cuts, crossers, things like that, so it’s really what we expected, and what they showed us out there,” he said.

The chemistry between Tagovailoa and Waddle has been striking.

Since Tagovailoa’s return from injured reserve in Week 6, Waddle is the NFL’s third-most targeted receiver and leads the league in receptions with 50. His 528 receiving yards in that span trail only Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp‘s 618.

“Jaylen has just been in the right place at the right time,” Tagovailoa said. “There’s times where he gets covered and he is still open, so you take a look at one of the third downs that we had. I think it was 26. Donte Jackson covering him. It was really good coverage. [Jaylen] still got open.”

Tagovailoa is hesitant to attribute their effectiveness to their time together at Alabama — that was two years ago, after all. But their experience in college laid a foundation to make them successful at this level.

Waddle said Tagovailoa has grown as a player, which has inspired him to try to do the same each week. Initially known as a field-stretching vertical threat coming out of college, Waddle has worked to sharpen his entire route tree during this recent stretch.

“I work extremely hard not to just be known as a speed guy or a vertical threat. I’m just going to continue to try to go out there every week and show I can actually run routes and do things that people don’t expect me to do.”

The rookie has also broken out a new touchdown celebration during this win streak, in which he pins his arms to his sides, palms outstretched, and waddles like a penguin.

He said he used to be laughed at for it, particularly by Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who now does it with him.

Maybe those who thought Miami made a mistake by drafting Waddle instead of fellow receivers Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals) or DeVonta Smith (Philadelphia Eagles) can take a page from Wilkins’ book and hop on board, as well.

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Dallas Cowboys haven’t asked me to sit vs. New Orleans Saints



FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott does not want to take a game off despite a bruised right knee.

“No one’s came to me and asked me to rest,” Elliott said Sunday as the Cowboys opened up preparation for Thursday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

If they do, Elliott said he would listen.

“I’ve just got to go with what they believe is best for the team,” he said.

Elliott said he has been dealing with the injury since banging it in the Oct. 3 win against the Carolina Panthers.

A day after the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, coach Mike McCarthy expressed concern for Elliott’s health after Elliott had just 25 yards on nine carries. The running back has not topped 51 yards in his last four games, the lowest-output of his career.

“It’s that time of year,” McCarthy said. “Zeke’s running style is ferocious. He gives a pounding and he takes some hits. We need to evaluate that and this week we’ll see what the preparation looks like for him.”

A source told ESPN the Cowboys will consider providing Elliott some time off to heal, including the possibility of holding him out of Thursday’s game. The source does not believe placing Elliott on injured reserve is a consideration at this time. That would require him Elliott to miss at least three games.

The Cowboys have scaled back Elliott’s snaps in the last four games to help manage the injury. He has played 164 of 280 offensive snaps (58.5%) after playing in 379 of 451 snaps (84%) in the first seven games of the season.

Elliott has missed just one game in his career because of injury (calf strain last December vs. the San Francisco 49ers). He was held out of the season finales in 2016 and ’18 because the Cowboys’ playoff position was set, and he was suspended for six games in 2017.

“He’s the ultimate competitor,” right guard Zack Martin said. “We see it on a day in, day out basis and I think everyone is seeing it. He takes great pride in being there for his teammates and doing whatever he can in his power to help this team win. For me, he’s one of the top competitors I’ve been around, and he’s going to keep doing that.”

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