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Dave Hyde: There’s nobody doing what Dolphins star Tyreek Hill is doing

LANDOVER, Maryland — The day that landed Tyreek Hill squarely in the NFL’s Most Valuable Player race began with a simple eye contact with Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

“We just looked at each other,” he said.

Actually, it didn’t begin there. It began in one of those thankless hours of video work where coaches look for an opponent’s tendencies to attack. Mike McDaniel and his staff found one they put into quick use Sunday afternoon.

If they put running back De’Von Achane in motion to a receiving slot on the right side, Washington linebacker Jamin Davis would move to cover him. That was such a mismatch safety Kam Curl shaded to help Davis.

“That left me in man-to-man coverage,” Hill said

“What can I say, he’s a great receiver,” said Kendall Fuller. “That’s it. He’s a great receiver.”

Does this help explain the inexplicable? Of how Washington became the latest defense Hill got deep on? Of how he played ring-around-the-rosie with it Sunday like a man among boys?

When he saw the one-on-one coverage, that’s when he made eye contact with Tagovailoa. He knew the play was for him. He showed Fuller that beep-beep burst of speed to get — count ‘em  — one, two, three, four yards behind the cornerback for an easy pitch-and-catch with Tagovailoa that went 78 yards on the Dolphins’ third play of the game.

Maybe that explains the first time he got deep on his defense. But the second time Hill did it? Like Washington didn’t learn its lesson the first time — or from his league-receiving 10 touchdowns coming into Sunday’s game?

“At some point it’s like, man … I don’t know, man,” he said. “I appreciate it. Thanks for, you now, not respecting me, I guess.”

His second touchdown Sunday went for 60 yards to make it a 24-7 game in the second quarter on the way to Miami’s 45-15 victory. The set-up was a similar one-on-one matchup and Hill blazing by the cornerback.

The added degree-of-difficulty came with the catch. Willie Mays has a famed, over-his-head catch in centerfield like it. Hill’s catch led to a sideline conversation with Tua that he re-created like so:

“Bro, you can’t hang me out like that,” Hill said.

“Bro, I threw the ball exactly where it was supposed to go,” Tagovailoa said.

They looked at the replay on a sideline tablet. Tua put the ball inside the edge of the numbers on the field, right where it was supposed to be.

“I’d edged into the middle of the field as I ran the route,” Hill said.

Running full speed, he adjusted his route, track the ball and catch it for a touchdown. That’s not why Dolphins receiver coach Wes Welker said he’s the best receiver he’s been around, better even than Hall of Famer Randy Moss. But it exemplifies why.

“Tyreek expects to make those kind of plays,” Tagovailoa said.

Together, they’ve formed a passing tandem that’s the heart of this offense. McDaniel didn’t come to Miami (9-3) with the idea of assembling a speed team. He just looked at the parts he had in Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Tagovailoa and shaped the clay into what Sunday again showed.

“I think it’s awesome,” Hill said.

Hill’s feats are stacking up. This was the second game he had two touchdown catches over 60 yards. It was his fifth game of more than 150 yards receiving. His 1,481 yards receiving makes his stated goal of 2,000 yards very do-able with five games left.

MVP? Who else? Maybe Lamar Jackson of Baltimore considering his season. Maybe Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. But Hill is taking over games from his receiving position, which brings another element to his candidacy.

Sure, it helped Sunday to be playing Washington, the worst defense in the league. Even after Hill scorched him twice, Washington coach Ron Rivera was blaming technique more than the scheme that Hill and Tagovailoa attacked.

Rivera said Fuller, “should have been tighter” in coverage of Hill’s release off the line.

“We didn’t squeeze him in the release,” he said. “We didn’t push into him and then we just got to make sure we got (a safety) over the top.”

Hill had four catches for 152 yards and the two touchdowns at half. He added a fifth catch to finish with 157 yards before sitting down early in the second half to rest some body parts that didn’t let him practice last week.

“I feel like it’s my best year even if I didn’t have numbers,” Hill said. “I feel I’m doing a great job of being the right spot for the quarterback and making sure I’m doing a great job blocking and just understanding the offense.”

He spent last offseason studying his mistakes and thinking, “I can be a whole lot better,” he said. “So, this is me just believing in myself.”

Who doesn’t believe in his talent other than some defense not built to let him get deep?

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