Raiders must stop Tyreek Hill to win on Thursday night

Kansas City never has a shortage of explosive players.

Their latest to see action is Tyreek Hill, a player who wasn’t well covered in the draft because he switched colleges following a domestic violence incident, but one who can be the difference against the Raiders on Thursday night.

Hill is the fastest player in the NFL right now, and ran 22.7 miles per hour during a touchdown return at Denver two weeks ago. He’s the guy the Raiders need to watch out for, less they get burned.

Kansas City runs a lot of screen passes and short slants, with quarterback Alex Smith among the more mobile signal callers in the league. And there’s a variety of ways that the Chiefs can get the ball to Hill in their offense.

Reverse plays, screen passes, handoffs and pitches, but the most threatening to Oakland could be slant-and-go routes, which is the way Amari Cooper scored his 35 yard touchdown against the Bills on Sunday.

Oakland has been snake-bit almost every time one of the Chiefs speedsters see the ball, and their usual plan of attack is preventing that player from meaningful touches.

That won’t work with Hill, though, since his skill set is unlike any other player the Raiders have faced recently.

With Jamaal Charles, jump cuts and explosive change of direction ability is what makes him so dynamic. Spencer Ware is good at many things, as well, and has few weaknesses.

Speed, though, especially like the kind possessed by Hill, is impossible to manage.

What can the Raiders do?

The most effective thing Oakland can do it to eliminate passing lanes. That means they might lose some sack production, but it could be worth it if it means Hill doesn’t see the ball.

Hill is 5-foot-10, and not the kind of jumper he is runner.

No doubt that there are ways that this can bite them in their barbecued pork butts. It could give Smith more time to throw, more time for Travis Kelce to find space, and then there’s always Ware.

But those are the lesser of evils, since Hill with the ball in his hands is much more difficult to deal with.

They also figure to employ some bracket coverage, and perhaps make it completely obvious to Smith, simply providing a deterrent.

There is no way they can play straight up, but also no way they can use one specific strategy during the whole game. Especially since there are schemes that beat all the aforementioned defenses.

So what the Raiders will need to do most is spread the defensive personnel effectively, playing with an extra safety perhaps. They won’t have rookie Karl Joseph, unless he miraculously gets healthy enough to play, which is very unlikely.

Oakland is going to have a tough time, no doubt, but if they mix things up enough, they stand a chance of eliminating the threat posed by Hill.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.