Tyreek Hill had a career-high 1,710 yards receiving in what was supposed to be a down year. Last offseason, he left the Kansas City Chiefs where he was paired with the best quarterback in football (Patrick Mahomes) and a Hall of Fame coach (Andy Reid). New Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel had never called plays before, and the unproven Tua Tagovailoa missed significant time due to multiple injuries.
That didn’t stop Hill.
This article details Hill’s exceptional 2022 season, outlining the changes in his route tree and coverage differences. With a full season of Tagovailoa, Hill could be even better in 2023.
All of the data used in this article is from Sports Info Solutions.
Detailing Hill’s Dominance
With the Dolphins, Hill had the most targets of his career (170). The more important stat is Hill only had two games with fewer than six targets. This allowed Hill to get enough work to produce top-end numbers consistently.
In 2022, he had seven games with 100 or more yards receiving. In his last three seasons with the Chiefs, he had eight games of with more than 100 yards. Miami kept Hill as the offense’s focal point and established his presence in every game.
|Season||Team||Routes Run||Yards/Route Run||Target/Route Run||% of Yards After the Catch||Average depth of Target|
Last season, Hill was targeted on 32.6 percent of his routes, the highest since 2018. The other key metric showing Hill’s role change was less than 30 percent of his yards coming after the catch for the first time in the last five years.
Intuitively, the Dolphins kept Hill fresh by running him on fewer routes and not asking him to do much after the catch, which helped keep him healthy throughout the season.
Route Tree Changes
Hill’s utilization in 2021 differed from his other years with the Chiefs, which likely led to Hill not being happy with the role. Hill was not targeted down the field, resulting in his lowest average depth of target (aDOT) of the past four seasons. In 2021, Hill had 19.4 percent of his targets be corner, post or vertical routes; the average in his three years prior was 29.6 percent.
The league defended the Chiefs differently, and Reid decided to get away from Hill’s top traits and focused on making the offense more short-minded to set up deep plays. This led to frustrations for Hill, and I don’t believe it was linked to getting the ball; it was how he got it, and the role he was asked to play.
McDaniel took Hill and gave him the deep targets back; they accounted for more than 25 percent of his targets in 2022. Most of Hill’s targets with Miami were intermediate to the deep portion of the field, requiring him to do less after the catch. Having Jaylen Waddle also plays a significant factor because when both are running deep routes, it is challenging to keep safeties over the top of both of them.
Coverage-wise, the NFL has shifted more and more towards zone coverage, and with the Dolphins, Hill rarely ran routes against man coverage. This is linked to the philosophies of the defenses they faced and also the threat of two-speed receivers. Most NFL corners don’t have the speed to man up against Hill or Waddle. Most teams don’t have two of those cornerbacks let alone one.
Teams even played Cover 4 against Miami at a significantly higher rate than they did against the Chiefs. The reality is Miami’s offense was better designed for Hill to get the ball as much as possible.
|Routes vs. Coverage|
The other massive difference is McDaniel did not use Hill on screens often. Hill had less than five percent of his routes as screens for the first time in the last five seasons. McDaniel didn’t put Hill in a position requiring him to make plays after the catch, which helped him greatly. For the first time in the last five years, Hill had less than 30 percent of his yards after the catch and wasn’t breaking tackles at the rate he had in Kansas City.
|Yards Per Route Run vs. Coverage|
McDaniel’s offense produced Hill’s best year in yards per route against man or zone coverage. Waddle is a big reason for this. With the speed threat of Hill and Waddle, teams rarely came up to press them, and with that cushion, you are allowing Hill to use his speed to find the soft spot in your zone.
Then, when they are on opposite sides, the safety can’t cheat toward one of them because they both can win deep. Travis Kelce is undeniably one of the best players in football, but Kelce doesn’t have Waddle’s speed.
Why Hill Will Be Better in 2023
Since 2018, with a minimum of 200 routes, Tagovailoa to Hill produced the highest yards per route run of any duo. There have been eight duos with more than three yards per route, and they are all from the Shanahan coaching tree. A full season of Tagovailoa will provide Hill with more consistency, and another year of developing chemistry should lead to more red-zone production. Hill is arguably the best wide receiver in football, and in fantasy, he will likely finish in the top 3.
Hill is still the best player on the offense, meaning his level of involvement should remain high. McDaniel watched Julio Jones get 203 targets in a single season and averaged 11.1 targets per game with Shanahan. McDaniel witnessed the 2018 49ers give George Kittle 136 targets resulting in 1,377 yards and helped the 2021 49ers carve out a unique role for Deebo Samuel.
Coaches from the Shanahan tree understand how to maximize their best players. We have seen what Sean McVay did with Todd Gurley or Cooper Kupp and what Matt Lafleur accomplished with Davante Adams, and it will be no different with Hill. Waddle will also have plenty of involvement, but there is no threat to the volume these two received this past year.
The Dolphins even hired the defensive coordinator from the 2022 Chargers. This is the one defensive scheme that countered what the Dolphins’ offense ran, and now they’ll learn how to counter it.
McDaniel’s philosophy is simple. Get the ball to your best player as many times as possible. Reid took away Hill’s deep role in 2021 and fed him the ball underneath more frequently, which led to frustration. As for the 2023 Dolphins, they will rely heavily on Hill again. If Tagovailoa remains healthy, we should see the same consistency and explosiveness from Hill in 2023.
This Dolphins’ defense is also built to be one of the best in 2023, which will mean more opportunities for the offense. Hill is one of the best weapons in football; McDaniel comes from a coaching tree that has consistently found the best possible way to get their top players the ball. There’s no reason he won’t have another monster season in 2023.