2018 was arguably the best season of Tyreek Hill’s career: 1479 yards, 14 total touchdowns, his first playoff win, a trip to the AFC championship game. Tyreek Hill was unstoppable when paired with the new, young gunslinger that Patrick Mahomes was in his debut season. It is also the only season in his career where he played and started in all sixteen games of the season.
In 2019, Hill was struggling with some personal affairs along with some injury issues and took a small step back, but still managed to help give the team the support they needed to win the Lombardi. Only 860 yards and seven touchdowns, Hill served as an effective defensive distraction but struggled to contribute measurably.
Then in 2020 Hill got healthy and bounced right back to where he left on in 2018. 1276 yards receiving, 17 total yards, and some extremely dominant performances throughout the season. He blew past almost any corner looking to cover him and even found success against many defensive schemes that were specifically built to stop him.
He did all of this even though Patrick Mahomes was running for his life all season behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Even before the injuries in the playoffs, the Chiefs’ offensive line was a huge problem for the team, especially on the inside. Even terrible teams were able to stay late into games with the Chiefs, thanks to their ability to get to Patrick Mahomes later in the game and keep them from putting the game out of reach.
You can actually see this proven statistically by Tyreek Hill. In only the first quarter of the 15 games that Hill played in, he had 501 yards, grabbed 29 passes, and was targeted 43 times, all of which are statistically higher than any other quarter. The only categories that Tyreek Hill did not do best in the first quarter were rushing yards and touchdowns, which he did best in the second quarter, and touchdowns, which he actually did best in the fourth quarter, but only by one touchdown.
If we zoom out a little bit from Tyreek Hill and look at the Chiefs’ offensive splits as a whole, we can further highlight the problems at the offensive line. In the first half, the Chiefs had four more touchdowns, 27 more first downs, and 404 more yards than they did in the second half of games.
The more interesting splits for exploring this topic, however, are the pass-rushing splits. The Chiefs’ offense saw a defensive blitz 150 times and a normal pass rush 503 times. A blitz package forces the Chiefs to use quick passes or to roll Mahomes out of the pocket, while plays drawn up against normal pass rushes keep Patrick Mahomes in the pocket longer. Blitz packages normally disrupt the offensive flow and force mistakes, while a normal pass rush is supposed to be where offenses set up their game plan.
So when the Kansas City Chiefs did significantly better against blitz packages than they did normal pass rushes, there is obviously a significant issue. 1.38 more yards per play, a better completion percentage, and a higher passer rating are already a problem, but it gets worse.
The Chiefs’ saw blitz packages on only 23% of their plays, which makes the fact that 26% of yards were gained against the blitz, 30% of touchdowns were scored against the blitz, 26% of first downs were earned against the blitz, and only 14% of interceptions were thrown against the blitz a huge problem.
The Chiefs’ offensive line could not handle a four-man rush and were largely responsible for the Chiefs’ difficulty to maintain steep leads and live up to their offensive potential.
Despite this, and despite being set back by the other problems on the team, Tyreek Hill still managed to have a decent season, which is extremely promising for what we can expect out of him in 2021.
The Chiefs have completely rebuilt their offensive line this off-season, maybe creating the best offensive line in the NFL. Their run game will have a full off-season to prepare and become a legitimate threat, forcing defenses to commit to the box. Travis Kelce is coming off an all-time great season for a tight end. Hardman and Demarcus Robinson are back and the new kid in town, Cornell Powell, is looking very good already.
Tyreek Hill is set up to eat under these circumstances.
If the Chiefs’ offensive line can actually stand and block a four-man rush, then Mahomes will have time to sit in the pocket and wait for Hill to burn whatever corner is unlucky enough to be covering him. If the defense has to commit more players to the center of the field, then there are fewer obstacles to stop Hill from hitting the open field.
If the defense really wants to stop Travis Kelce, they will need to commit a safety to him, which limits the defensive ability to cap Hill’s down the field speed. With a second speedster in the lineup and a pair of route runners in the slot, the defense will have to spread out and leave Hill more space to operate in.
Tyreek Hill is in a better position than Devante Adams was last year, who had 1374 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns and was a finalist for offensive player of the year. The Packers had the best offensive line in football, a great running back, and an MVP at quarterback. The mediocre players that filled out the rest of the receiving core were not important, because just the line, the running back, and the quarterback gave Adams the ability to see that much success.
Plus, on top of everything else, it is important to know that this is a contract year for Tyreek Hill. Every single yard, every catch, every additional touchdown, all of it means more dollars in Hill’s pockets come next season.
Hill took a small pay cut in his most recent extension because of the controversy that followed him around, but having finally put that behind him and won a Super Bowl, he will be looking to secure the rest of his and his family’s life. He understands that this season is tied directly to that goal, and will likely be putting in extra effort for it.
Between the improvements the Chiefs made this offseason, Tyreek Hill’s motivations, and his insane skill at receiver, Tyreek Hill is in a perfect position to explode in 2021. If he stays healthy, that seems like an inevitability, and he could be leading the Chiefs to their third straight Super Bowl appearance.