Hill Speeding Up Progress
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
By Nick Wagoner
When the Rams open the regular season on Sept. 9 against Carolina, Tye Hill will be the most experienced Rams cornerback on the field.
With Fakhir Brown suspended for four games and no guarantee that he will win his appeal of the suspension, Hill becomes the most tenured Ram in terms of games played with the team.
Along with that, Hill carries the weight of helping to lead a young secondary while it waits for the return of its veteran leader.
“That sounds kind of odd and kind of crazy being in my second year but I do have a lot of game experience,” Hill said. “I am going to have to go out there and set an example by being what St. Louis drafted me to be.”
In Hill’s case, the idea of game experience is all relative. While he has more starts with the Rams than any other cornerback on the roster, he was only a rookie last year and played in 16 games with nine starts.
As the Rams try to sort out who will be starting in Brown’s place on the other side among a group that includes Ron Bartell, Jonathan Wade and Lenny Walls (Bartell is the favorite), Hill is doing everything he can to prove that he’s ready to take on the opponent’s best receiver.
“I have to be honest with you,” coach Scott Linehan said. “Tye Hill looked like why we drafted him in the first round a year ago. He’s ready to take his game to a new level.”
Linehan says that knowing that Hill will have plenty of pressure on him to perform, especially in the first four games.
“I think there’s pressure on all of us to do better,” Linehan said. “He’s going to get a lot of one on one matchups against their best. That’s why we think so much of him. He feels pretty confident in that role.”
Naturally confident anyway, Hill is setting his sights on becoming one of the elite cover corners in the NFL. As a rookie, he posted three interceptions with four passes defended and a fumble recovery in addition to his 42 tackles.
After starting the season in the slot, Hill started a pair of games in the middle of the season because of injuries. He then took over the starting role for good on Nov. 19 against Carolina.
In that game, Hill had his ups and downs, giving up a long pass early in the game, but bouncing back later with an acrobatic interception. Soon after the season, Hill made it a point to work on the little things that can make him the type of player he wants to be.
“I believe I am working towards becoming a shutdown corner but right now I am still working,” Hill said. “I am still working to be that guy St. Louis drafted me to be. It’s a day-to-day process and hopefully one day I will be known around the league as a shutdown corner.”
Soon after the Rams drafted him a year ago, Hill made it clear that he would like to earn his first Pro Bowl berth within two years of entering the league.
As last season went on and he got more and more comfortable, Hill looked like the type of player who could reach that goal sooner than later. But he readily admits that there are still pieces of his game that need work.
That’s why he spent most of his offseason fine-tuning his game in all areas. Hill continues to work extra hard on his hands so that he can come up with more interceptions.
Hill is also working on becoming a more vocal leader though he has ceded most of those responsibilities to the older veterans in the secondary.
“I consider myself a leader, but at the same time I know who really leads,” Hill said. “I am going to be led by Corey Chavous and Fakhir Brown, when they talk everybody listens. OJ has taken more of a leadership role also.”
Hill had a slight scare in June when he was diagnosed with a staph infection which came from an unknown cause. But Hill arrived at this training camp ready to go with no lingering effects from the infection.
On the first day, in fact, Linehan praised Hill’s performance and acknowledged that his young cornerback appears on the verge of a breakthrough.
The year of starting and getting plenty of playing time has also done wonders for Hill’s confidence. He is no longer the target of receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt’s chatter and he seems to have earned their respect with his play.
During one series of plays in team drills on the second day of camp, the offense threw four straight passes in Hill’s direction. The result? One interception and three pass breakups.
While Hill is fully aware he has a ways to go before he can book his ticket to Hawaii, all indications are that he is on the right path.
“I feel like I have a lot to work on,” Hill said. “I am not going to sit here and tell you guys that I am the king and the Master of the Universe and I can shut down anybody out there, but I am definitely going to get where I need to go. It just takes time and it takes work.”
Re: Hill Speeding Up Progress
i know its still early but it seems to me that all the young guys are saying the right things and doing what it takes to become solid players for this team!
I'm ready for some football, this training camp crap has to come to an end SOON!!!!!