Tyreek Hill’s 2022 season looks set to be a historic one. If he maintains his current pace (no pun intended) he will set a league record for receiving yards in a single season. He will also beat his own personal single-season record for receiving yards by 465. He’s on the way to becoming the first receiver to break the 2,000-yard mark. Oddly enough, however, Hill hasn’t dominated every opponent he’s faced this year. Four opponents have kept him under 100 receiving yards this season; all while five teams have seen him rack up at least 160!
Tyreek Hill’s Unstoppable 2022 Season Shows He’s Still Elite
An interesting (to me anyway) quirk in this potentially record-breaking season is Hill’s least productive games have all come in odd-numbered weeks. And, these games have all been played at Hard Rock Stadium. Hill does have one game with more than 100 receiving yards at home this season against the Vikings when he went for a huge 177 yards from 12 catches.
Jaylen Waddle has had two such games at Hard Rock in 2022. He had 102 in week three against the Bills and also made 129 against the Vikings (from just six catches). Defending the Dolphins offense is a matter of picking your poison; evidently, the Vikings c
Tyreek Hill is on pace to finish this season with 1,986 receiving yards— Dolphin Nation (@Dolphin_Nation) October 17, 2022
The NFL record is 1,964 receiving yards by Calvin Johnson in 2012 👀 pic.twitter.com/1KxPNKzGdy
hose both poisons.
Only Bill Bellichick can stop him
Teams who have managed to limit Hill’s impact have used different methods. Back in Week 1, Bill Bellichick’s Patriots defense barely held Hill under 100 yards as his eight receptions went for 94 yards. Five of his catches came on the left side of the formation and Jonathan Jones did a good job of cutting off the space downfield.
Both the team and the system helped by bracketing Hill with Devin McCourty over the top. Inside defenders (usually the nickel back but also linebackers) flooded across to prevent Hill from running free in the middle. Once he finds space, he’s uncatchable. McCourty made a couple of thumping tackles on Hill too. Unfortunately for the NFL, not everyone has the luxury of a three-time Super Bowl winner in their defensive backfield.
The AFC East is his nemesis
The Dolphins Week 3 game against the Bills was played in temperatures approaching 100 degrees and Hill only caught two of four targets for 33 yards. Apart from the extreme weather conditions, Buffalo’s pass rush sacked both of the quarterbacks who featured for Miami and helped derail the offense. Hill, himself, limited his number of catches with one wiped off when he was flagged for an illegal shift penalty.
Immediately after Tagovailoa was sacked, he appeared to be concussed, or at the very least suffering in the heat. He stumbled on his way to the huddle but he was later cleared to return. His obvious struggles may have contributed to Hill’s low number of targets. In what was a bizarre game, the Dolphins only had possession of the ball for 19 minutes and 20 seconds. They only managed 212 total yards, but still won after blocking a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.
Other AFC teams
Two weeks later, Robert Saleh’s Jets didn’t do a great job of stopping Hill from getting the ball. He caught seven targets but they did well to limit the number of yards Hill gained with those catches. Part of that was because Tagovailoa and Bridgewater both missed the game with concussions. Rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson threw shorter passes than you’d expect from the veterans.
Jeff Ulbrich’s defense did play a part in limiting Hill’s effectiveness through the pass rush. They pressured Thompson 17 times on his 33 pass attempts.
On Sunday Night Football in Week 7, Hill was targeted 13 times ending with seven receptions for 72 yards. For the first time this season, none of his receptions came when he was lined up on the left side. This may well have been because Mike McDaniel wanted to limit throwing passes in the direction of Levi Wallace. Wallace and Minkah Fitzpatrick have 23 career interceptions between them. Although Fitzpatrick did tackle Hill twice, Miami’s offense managed to limit his chances to make a play on the ball as he defended just one pass.
One of Hill’s receptions came when he appeared in the backfield. The other six came when he lined up on the right usually opposite Arthur Maulet (who has no career interceptions). Like the Bills, the Steelers dominated time of possession with 33:16 minutes. Unlike the Bills, they didn’t pressure the quarterback. They only managed to pressure Tagovailoa once on his 35 pass attempts despite blitzing eight times.
Nothing stops Tyreek Hill
So, how do you stop Tyreek Hill? Well, it’s impossible to highlight a single way to stop him. Although the four teams who have slowed him down all have defensively-minded Head Coaches. Three of them have won at least one Super Bowl or six.
Even if a team did sell out to stop him, Waddle would light them up on the opposite side, so it would be counterproductive (and absolutely validates McDaniel’s desperation to trade for him when he became available). The most effective way to limit Hill’s impact on a game is to put pressure on the Dolphins quarterback instead. But, even if a defense can’t force a mistake from the passer, they can still contain Hill once he has possession with the correct personnel.
A common component of defenses that have contained Hill is the presence of an elite safety to assist the cornerbacks. Devin McCourty, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Super Bowl-winning Jordan Whitehead are all successful veteran defensive backs. The Bills, however, don’t have one now that Micah Hyde is out with a long-term injury. That’s probably why they traded for Dean Marlowe as they’ll be seeing Hill at Orchard Park in Week 15. While some teams have defended well against Hill this year, it’s difficult not to think Hill is carrying an injury this season.
During games, he appears hesitant to take contact and rarely tries to break tackles when he has possession. Terrifyingly for the rest of the league Hill could be even more productive next season and he could even threaten Chris Johnson’s single-season record for the total number of yards from the line of scrimmage.