Hill Adjusting Well
Sunday, September 3, 2006
By Nick Wagoner
Soon after signing his rookie contract cornerback Tye Hill proclaimed that he plans on going to the Pro Bowl within two years. But along the way through his first preseason, Hill realized that it’s a long distance to Hawaii.
As physically gifted and talented as Hill is, he knows he has to improve on the finer points of playing in the NFL. Although many expected Hill to start as a rookie, he will enter the regular season working exclusively in nickel and dime sub packages and as a backup to starters Travis Fisher and Fakhir Brown.
“I don’t deserve to start yet so I am not going to lie,” Hill said. “I have to get better. I have to get technique fundamentally sound. That’s the reason why a lot of corners that play 10-12 years, not because they were the fastest or strongest, but because they were technically sound.”
It’s easy to look at Hill’s measurables, such as his blazing speed in the 40-yard dash and impressive vertical leaping ability and think that it will automatically translate to performance on the field.
In fact, Hill was able to become a first-round pick at Clemson mostly because of his physical abilities. In making the leap to the NFL, Hill quickly found out that there’s more to covering elite wide receivers than running and jumping.
“In college it was so easy I could control my receiver and get back on top and run down the ball,” Hill said. “It’s a little different here. It is a little faster, but the guys, they do so many double moves and it’s like stopping and going, stopping and going. That’s the main thing. There aren’t too many people…I don’t think there’s really anybody that can run straight past me.”
When Hill arrived in St. Louis for his first minicamp, he admittedly was a bit star struck by some of the talent around him. Going to work and lining up across from the likes of star receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce proved to be an eye-opening experience.
But Hill has worked past that.
“I am very comfortable,” Hill said. “As far as that, I see them as every-day guys now. Being able to work with those guys and for them to help me with my game get better is going to be really good for me in the long run. It’s going to help me mature faster, I think.”
After a short holdout to start camp, Hill arrived with plenty of expectations for himself. Once again, though, things didn’t go exactly as planned.
Hill struggled to catch up after missing four and a half days and six practices. In his first practice, he fared OK against some of the receivers lower on the depth chart, but was later turned inside out by Holt on a double move.
As camp continued, though, Hill continued to battle and, according to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, Hill improved every day.
“Tye is fitting in,” Haslett said. “He is getting better. He struggled when he got here. Now, he is picking it up.”
Hill has continued to be up and down as he learns the little aspects of playing his position. For instance, Hill said he has a tendency to peek into the backfield and watch the quarterback instead of staying with his receiver.
At Clemson, that was OK because Hill could recover easily with his speed. At this level, it’s not that simple.
“I have to work on my eyes and stop looking back for the ball,” Hill said. “When I am playing man (coverage), I am playing man. That’s one thing I really have to control.”
Hill is also working to better control his arms and hands in press coverage. After his first game, Haslett and coach Scott Linehan made reference to Hill’s “flailing” arms. Hill has since corrected that problem for the most part, but he knows he needs to find the consistency that Linehan seeks.
“I don’t know how far away I am from being a starter, but as far as being where I need to be technically I am not that far away,” Hill said. “It’s little things and it’s all really a mind thing. I’m not that far away, it’s doing it every down. I am doing it, I am technically sound, I am just not technically sound every play like I need to be.”
For most of the preseason, Hill was a popular target for opposing teams. Time and again, opponents would throw in Hill’s direction. Perhaps the most impressive part of Hill’s camp was his resilience. In that aspect, he has showed the proper short memory that a cornerback must have.
Still, Hill expects teams to continue to throw at him until he proves that his side of the field is a dangerous place.
“I’m going to get tested all year until I prove that I belong and I can prove I can stop what they are trying to do,” Hill said. “Until I intercept some balls and really climb that ladder to be where I need to be, they are going to test me. I am prepared for it.”
Re: Hill Adjusting Well
I like how he is improving everyday, and he is very selfaware(sp?) and next year i think he will probably be our #2 corner.