The Eagles’ defense has been asked a lot this week about stopping Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the league’s most lethal speedster, who can line up anywhere in the formation.
But the defenders aren’t the only ones who have to worry about Hill. He was the NFL’s leading punt returner in 2016, averaging 15.2 yards per return, with two touchdowns. Hill returned only 14 kickoffs during his rookie season, and his 27.4-yard average wasn’t quite as impressive as the punt return figure, but he scored a touchdown that way, as well.
Often, the Eagles’ Dave Fipp-led special teams have an advantage over the opposition. This week they might not, with Hill giving renowned Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub a deadly weapon. Toub was once a special teams assistant with the Eagles under John Harbaugh.
“Just get after him,” said Kamu Grugier-Hill, the Eagles linebacker and special teams fixture, when asked about dealing with Hill. “Just get out and swarm him. I look at it as a challenge. I’m actually really looking forward to this game, because I’m going to get him … I’m just really excited for that plan, those moments, and these kinds of games.”
You play different returners differently, Grugier-Hill said.
“He’s real fast for sure. He’s real courageous. He doesn’t really fair-catch the ball a lot,” Grugier-Hill said. “He’s sit in there and take some hits. He trusts his instincts, he trusts his blockers. It’s going to be a good game.”
Punter Donnie Jones wouldn’t divulge whether he hopes to pin Hill to one sideline or the other. But at 37, Jones knows he doesn’t want to be the last guy left in front of Hill.
“He’s probably faster than me,” Jones allowed.
Jones is also the holder, working with new kicker Jake Elliott, since the Week 1 Caleb Sturgis hip flexor tear.
“I don’t really think it’s a whole lot different from Caleb. [Elliott] pretty much likes the ball the same way,” Jones said. “I don’t foresee any issues with the rhythm, the snap. I think right now, we’re good … He’s been great. He’s the kind of guy, go out, put it down, and kick it.”
Doug Pederson said he had seen “a really good amount of consistency” from Elliott in practice this week. Arrowhead Stadium can be a tough, windy place for kickers, as Pederson, a former Chiefs offensive coordinator, well knows. Pederson said he would have to “trust my gut, trust my instinct, and trust the players” on decided what distances are reasonable with a new kicker.
Robert Anderson finally got around to reading Ron Darby’s MRI, a source close to the situation said, and he agreed with the Eagles’ doctors: four to six weeks for healing Darby’s ankle dislocation … Second-year defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao will miss Sunday’s game with a wrist injury, probably opening the door for sixth-round rookie DT Elijah Qualls, who was inactive for the opener. “Just kind of prove that I’m better than a lot of people think I am,” Qualls said, asked what he hopes to accomplish … Doug Pederson said third-round rookie corner Rasul Douglas would have a role this weekend because of Darby’s injury. Douglas was inactive for the opener.