This week, Tyreek Hill reminded NFL fans he’s not only unbelievably fast on the playing field. He’s also quick to make headlines. It didn’t take that long for the Miami Dolphins wide receiver to get the promotion going ahead of his matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
All Tyreek had to do was drop some grabby quotes on cornerback Eli Apple.
“I can’t wait to go against Eli Apple, man. I owe you, boy. I owe you! I’m here. The Cheetah is here,” said Hill following the Dolphins’ win over the Buffalo Bills.
Judging by national headlines and media hype heading into Thursday Night Football, the media tactics work. However, I can’t help wondering, is he going to actually matchup against Apple?
I’d argue not.
Bengals’ CB Chidobe Awuzie has been traveling with the opposing team’s #1 receivers for a while now and has been killing it in the process. He’s near the top in the NFL in several coverage categories and has shown impressive consistency.
Chidobe Awuzie has started 2022 even better than his 2021 campaign— Jake Sirkus (@JakeSirkus) September 26, 2022
He’s been targeted at the highest rate in the league (amongst CB’s with 15+ targets)
Awuzie has generated the 5th least EPA with -8.09 and is 7th in EPA/target
Also has a 75 coverage grade per PFF#Bengals pic.twitter.com/upCEOSg1KI
On Tuesday, Awuzie discussed his assignment on Lou Anarumo’s defense. In a recent video tweeted by The Enquirer’s Kelsey Conway, the Bengals’ cornerback confirms he shadows top receivers.
In fact, Awuzie had quite a game against Tyreek Hill and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17 of the 2021 season. Although he allowed seven catches in eight targets, he only permitted 31 yards. In three targets versus Hill, he allowed only 10 yards. His tackling was on point.
Most unheralded game-changing performance from #Bengals win on Sunday?— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) January 3, 2022
Often drew Tyreek Hill assignment. Via @PFF, targeted eight times, only gave up 31 yards and two first downs. Long of 8 yards. Made 9 tackles without a miss, four for an offensive failure.
In the AFC Championship Game, Hill recorded only one target versus Awuzie. However, Bengals’ Eli Apple did face Hill some more, allowing three catches on three targets that went for two first downs.
You would assume Cincinnati is going to make it a priority to get their best man on Hill.
Tyreek is going to make plays. He’s one of the best in the NFL and the Bengals know that fairly well. And whether it’s Chidobe Awuzie on him (I’d bet it will be) or Eli Apple, they won’t face him alone. The only way to face the “Cheetah” is with some safety help.
This will be the toughest test yet for a Bengals’ defense that ranks seventh in the league per Football Outsider’s DVOA. The Dolphins will make plays, but it will be about limiting the explosive ones in order to walk away with the win. Awuzie and a very good set of safeties should certainly help.
Featured image via Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports