Chiefs receiver and kick returner Tyreek Hill reportedly ran a 4.24-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in March, which seems relevant every time he touches the ball these days.
Through the first three games of his NFL career, Hill — a stocky, blazing-fast 5-foot-10 rookie who was taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft — has easily been the fastest man on the field.
But while Hill might have faith in his speed, that’s not the reason he has repeatedly bounced outside on kick returns instead of running straight ahead.
“I’m going to take some of the blame on that because I’m calling bounce returns,” Chiefs special-teams coach Dave Toub said Thursday. “He’s doing what I’m telling him to do. If I told him to hit it straight ahead he would hit it straight ahead.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Toub said he saw something on tape and called those returns against the Jets in an attempt to get to the edge. But the Jets took away that strategy, particularly on one third-quarter kick return in which Hill caught the ball at the Chiefs’ 9 and only gained 5 yards.
“We just know that if we think a team is converging too much or getting too bottled up inside, we’ll try to get outside of them,” Toub said. “We thought we might get that on that particular play, we tried to bounce it and it just wasn’t there.
“Tyreek is doing everything that we expect him to do at this point.”
Toub said opposing units are starting to take notice of Hill, too.
“I mean you can see the kickoff team talking, (saying) 10 is back there, so they have a plan for him to probably stay a little bit wider,” Toub said. “We have to do a better job at designing and making better calls for him.”
Hill has been close, however. He had a 105-yard touchdown return against the Houston Texans nullified by a penalty, and probably would have returned his first kickoff against the Jets for a touchdown if not for a shoestring tackle by Braedon Bowman.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Hill, who ranks 10th in the NFL in kick-return average at 20.8 yards and sixth with a 14.1-yard punt-return average, is still learning when, and how, to utilize his speed.
Although he has played 29 snaps — 82 fewer than No. 3 receiver Albert Wilson — Hill has out-touched Wilson 22 to five through three weeks.
“When you’re one of, if not the fastest guy on the field, you need to understand the geometry of the playing field,” Reid said. “You’ve only got a certain amount of room to work with, and defenders can cut that space in half depending on their angles. You end up having to split people. There’s a time and a place to do that, and there’s a time and a place to go around a guy.”
“He wants to be good. He’s easy to talk to. He’ll get it — I’ve seen this before. He’s got a lot of talent and he’ll make some big plays too.”