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  1. #1
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    Hill Enters Big Year

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    When Tye Hill arrived in St. Louis after the Rams used the 15th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, he wasted no time in declaring his lofty goals.

    Hill wanted to be a starter in year one and earn a trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii by year two. That type of confidence is imperative for anyone playing the cornerback position.

    But confidence can cut both ways. While it might help Hill have a short memory when he gets beat for a long gain, it also can work against him when he doesn’t live up to his self-created expectations.

    As Hill enters his third NFL season, he has proved himself as one of the team’s starting corners but he hasn’t really even sniffed a Pro Bowl invitation or any other individual award.

    “Honestly, I think this is a make or break year for me,” Hill said. “I am not going to say I haven’t lived up to expectations this whole time but I just feel like the third year things are supposed to click and you are supposed to show what kind of player you really are. There’s no excuse not to be good. I know the defense; I am very confident and if I wasn’t the Rams wouldn’t have drafted me in the first round.”

    Hill has found a way to retain his trademark confidence in spite of a variety of injuries that have kept him from reaching what many consider to be vast potential.

    As a rookie, Hill was perhaps the team’s most consistent cornerback. He earned a starting nod not even halfway through the season and started 10 games as he led the team in interceptions with three and added a fumble recovery and 42 tackles.

    The promise of that season created big expectations for Hill entering year two. With fellow starter Fakhir Brown suspended the first four games of that season; Hill stepped into the role as the top corner for the season opener against Carolina.

    Hill battled Carolina’s star receiver Steve Smith in the opener, holding his own with the exception of a 68-yard touchdown pass in the second half.

    Any momentum Hill might have gained from that game was lost in the next week’s practice as Hill was struck by injury.

    Hill suffered broken bones in his lower back on Sept. 13 that kept him out four games. After his return, Hill caught more bad luck when he dislocated his left wrist on Dec. 2. That injury landed him on injured reserve, ending his season.

    At the time Hill was placed on injured reserve, he had 30 tackles with one interception and one pass defended. It was clearly a disappointment for Hill. The disappointment of falling short of his goals and missing half the season has become added motivation for the maturing Hill, who has taken the opportunity to adjust his goals for this season.

    “It’s more motivation but I always tell people when I came in as a rookie, I was young so my mouth kind of ran kind of quick,” Hill said. “I just want to have a great season and be able to help this team. It’s all about team for me right now because I want to win. I am tired of losing. I want a ring. I am pretty sure everyone else on this team feels the same way.”

    This preseason has been a renaissance of sorts for Hill. Aside from a couple of missed practices early in training camp with what he called “camp legs,” Hill has been one of the few constants in a constantly banged up secondary.

    Although Hill still needs work on his hands – he’s dropped interception opportunities – he has been sticky in coverage and a willing tackler.

    Against San Diego in the second preseason game, the Chargers rarely threw Hill’s direction.

    “That’s usually good because they are going somewhere else and he’s covering his guy,” coach Scott Linehan said. “He’s not the biggest corner in the world but he comes up and he’s physical and he tackles. He’s done that when he’s been in. The biggest thing is – knock on wood – he hasn’t had any of those things that have kept him out of practice and out of games so hopefully we can have one of those years where he can stay on the field the whole season.”

    As one of the few “veteran” cornerbacks on the field because of Fakhir Brown’s shoulder injury, Hill has also embraced an enhanced leadership role.

    Hill isn’t really a vocal leader but says he tries to set a positive example for young cornerbacks such as Jonathan Wade and Justin King.

    As for any brash predictions or goals, Hill has backed off of some of his earlier comments though he amended his goal of the Pro Bowl to aiming to be an All Pro, an important difference considering the way those awards are bestowed.

    Still, Hill maintains his cornerback’s swagger.

    “I wouldn’t say I dialed back on my mouth a little bit because I am a very confident guy but at the same time I just realized what comes first and I realized what needs to happen for us to be successful,” Hill said. “And for us to be successful, I need to play good and all of us in the secondary need to play good because this team depends on our secondary a lot in this defense.”

    Secondary coach Ron Milus also buys into the theory that Hill needs to have a big year in his third season. He uses free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe as an example of a player entering a third year with something to prove.

    “It will be a key year for Tye, being that it's his third," Milus said. “He has to make that step that O.J. Atogwe made after his second year in the league. If he can develop like we want him to, he has a chance to be a quality football player in this league.”

    Maybe that won’t make him an All Pro but it certainly could help in the win column and for now, that’s Hill’s main concern.

  2. #2
    TekeRam's Avatar
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    Re: Hill Enters Big Year

    I've always liked Hill, and have thought he could be a good corner for us. He has the speed to keep up with #1 receivers and you can see that in last year's Panthers game, where he did well against one of the shiftiest guys on the field, except for the one long score of course.

    I would love to see him get his pro bowl this year, as I doubt he'll be an All-Pro, but you never know.

  3. #3
    Dr. Defense's Avatar
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    Re: Hill Enters Big Year

    This is the type of player that you want to build a defense around. I am so happy to hear that Tye Hill isn't satisfied with himself. He's won a starting job, which would be a lot for someone. But for him it's only the beginning, he desires to be one of the best. With this kinda of drive I am expecting big things out of him. I am going to go on a limb and say that he gets at least 12 interceptions this year

  4. #4
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    Re: Hill Enters Big Year

    That's one hell of a limb.

    I'd put it closer to 6.

  5. #5
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    Re: Hill Enters Big Year

    I'd say he'll probably get a shot at 12 interceptions...and hopefully he'll hold on to 8 of them. It has been quite a while since any of our corners have sniffed double digit interceptions.

  6. #6
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    Re: Hill Enters Big Year

    12 interceptions...would be a remarkable job.

    I really like this guy though. I hope he shows everyone that he was worth passing on Cromartie.

  7. #7
    maineram Guest

    Re: Hill Enters Big Year

    It is good news that the Chargers weren't throwing his way in that game. That alone is something to be said from the respect perspective, the other team has for his skills. I realize he wasn't covering a world beater WR, but it does speak volumes about his cover skills.

    I hope he does have a big year and get's his share of INT's the defense as a whole will make a big leap to being respectable. Good corner play helps the D-line tremendously.

    Maine -

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