In 2016, Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill made a major impact on the offense despite averaging fewer than six touches from scrimmage per game. In 2017, Hill will be used much more extensively.
And the Patriots will be the first team to get a taste of how he’ll be deployed.
“It looks like he might be more of a receiver this year, but I’m sure they can use him for specialty plays or put him back there,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters on Saturday when asked about Hill’s rushing attempts as a rookie. “[L]ast year they did it sometimes and he was the running back, so there’s no other running back on the field. So that wasn’t that hard to figure out. If he’s out there with another running back, which he usually is in these formations — the formations that they’re showing this year — then they could obviously switch the two players, switch a running back and a receiver, but now you’ve got a running back at receiver.”
The Chiefs have had seven months to come up with ways to get the ball to Hill when the defense doesn’t expect it, creating mismatches and misdirections with one of the most elusive players in the league.
“I’m sure that they have a lot of different ways to use him and he’s a very versatile player, so he can run, he can catch, he can run as a receiver, reverses and plays like that,” Belichick said. “I’m sure they use him as a decoy. He’s a very explosive player that can affect all three levels of the defense. I mean, he can run by you and he can take a short play and turn it into a long run, so those guys are hard to defend. I don’t know exactly where he’ll be, but you certainly have to be conscious of him whenever he’s on the field, including in the kicking game.”
Belichick has a long history of taking away what the opposing offense does best. And so it’s safe to say he’ll be planning for ways to neutralize Hill, forcing the Chiefs to go elsewhere.
If, that is, Belichick has the horses to contain Hill. The Patriots didn’t play the Chiefs in 2016. In 2017, the Chiefs would love to both disrupt the banner raising and send the team many think can go 19-0 to 0-1.