Chris Harris Jr. is one of the best cornerbacks in football. He has made the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons and is a huge part of what the Denver Broncos do defensively.
Yesterday, he wrote a tremendous piece for The Players Tribune about the five toughest receivers he’s had to cover, and he actually broke each one of them down in-depth with thorough explanations as to why. One of the players he mentioned? Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton.
He listed Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton, Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and Bengals receiver A.J. Green (in that order) as the toughest players he’s had to cover, but what makes Hilton so tough?
It’s worth checking out Harris’s full answer as he breaks down Hilton’s play, but a large part of it is unpredictability - Hilton can line up anywhere in the formation. But Harris also mentioned Hilton’s route running as a strength:
Similar to AB [Antonio Brown], he’s a guy who is very patient in his routes, but the thing that sticks out the most is that he takes very precise angles.
When I’m watching film of a receiver, the first thing I notice is the angles he takes in his breaks. Does he slow down a little bit and round his angles? Or does he make a sharp break? A lot of young receivers will round off their angles, which allows DBs to make a break inside toward the ball. The best route runners make very sharp, precise breaks at full speed. T.Y. is phenomenal at this. He doesn’t just plant and make a cut, he explodes into his breaks. T.Y. has an extra takeoff gear that not a lot of guys have.
Hilton is a good route runner, something he surely learned in part from Reggie Wayne (who also learned in part from Marvin Harrison). Harris also mentioned the fact that Hilton can take you deep from the slot, as well as Hilton’s signature deep-over route, as things that make him so tough to guard.
It’s high praise for Hilton to be included in a group with Gronk, Brown, Hopkins, and Green by one of the league’s best corners, and this year Hilton is certainly showing he belongs (not to mention his three straight 1,000-yard seasons entering this year). Through five games, Hilton ranks among the league-leaders with 35 receptions, 507 yards, and three touchdowns. He has been having a terrific campaign, and if Chris Harris thinks he’s really hard to cover, odds are that’s a sentiment echoed by many cornerbacks throughout the league.