Dolphins relishing the Hill, Waddle possibilities and the options of where to line them up

Chris O'Meara/AP

Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle create enough headaches and angst for defenses wherever they line up.

But through three weeks of training camp, safety Eric Rowe has noticed they’re particularly lethal when they line up on the same side of the field.

And that creates an interesting decision for Mike McDaniel and his coaching staff: Should the Dolphins mostly line them up on opposite sides — with Cedrick Wilson Jr. alongside one of them in the slot — or should they run a lot of formations with Hill and Waddle on the same side?

“When you see Tyreek and Jaylen on the same side, it’s high awareness they’re going deep,” Rowe said. “When they go deep, they have different routes so you can’t anticipate what route it is. Are they doing a post? Corner [route]? Sit down [route]? It’s tough to transition and [adjust defensively], with how they can break down their bodies on a dime.”

Receivers coach Wes Welker said the staff has discussed where to line up Hill and Waddle and in what formations.

Welker explained how the thinking goes: “When Tyreek is by himself, you can always put a safety over the top and try to take care of him that way. I understand what [Rowe is] saying.”


“You put them on opposite sides and you still have to put a Cover 2 guy on the other side too, and that opens up our run game,” Welker said. “When you put them on the same side, you’ve got two people over there so there’s different things that defenses have to worry about having that cloud over there and how you’re going to take care of it.

“Because once those guys get down the field, it becomes tough because the numbers are a little more even as opposed to them being on opposite sides.”

It’s a strategy dynamic that Mike McDaniel and his coaches enjoy debating internally. But they cannot experiment this week, with Waddle sidelined by an undisclosed injury that the team indicated is not serious.

What’s clear is that the Dolphins want to vary formations. Sometimes, you might see Hill, Waddle and Wilson on the same side. Sometimes two of those might be lined up alongside Mike Gesicki in the slot. Sometimes two might be on one side and two on the other.

But know this: The offense will be creative.

“You don’t want to be so predictable,” Welker said of always lining up Hill and Waddle in the same spot. “So you’ve got to do a lot of things with it. You still have to keep the defense honest. There are so many concepts we really like.”

Wilson played 90 percent of his snaps in the slot for the Cowboys last season — the highest percentage in the NFL. He said that’s where he believes he’s most effective. But he has the traits and size (6-2) to play on the boundary and said he has worked at both positions for the Dolphins.

Hill and Waddle can play both in the slot and on the boundary. Last season for the Chiefs, Hill played 49 percent of his snaps from the slot or a tight alignment. Waddle played 52 percent of his snaps from the slot or a tight alignment as a Dolphins rookie but figures to play more on the outside this season.

Gesicki was in the slot or out wide on 85 percent of his snaps last season, per Pro Football Focus. But this offense typically requires the tight ends to be in-line a lot, something Gesicki has worked on during training camp.

In the meantime, Dolphins coaches relish the prospect of having two speed demons in Hill and Waddle, and several other dangerous receivers, including Gesicki, Wilson and running back Chase Edmonds.

“A lot of times, you’ll sit there and you’ll have one speed guy and then you’ll have one guy that’s a solid route runner,” Welker said. “When you have two guys that can really stretch the field [in Hill and Waddle] and you don’t know which guy is going deep, that opens up the underneath coverage.

“At the same time, in a lot of offenses, you know who’s going deep. With those two out there, you don’t necessarily know which one is going deep and trying to key in on that guy and have an idea that the other guy is probably going to run the shorter route. It could be either way with those two.”

Welker’s admiration for Hill has grown throughout camp.

Beyond the elite speed, “Tyreek is a very smart football player,” Welker said. “He understands space. He understands coverages. He understands whenever you show him exactly how you want to do something, he gets it very quickly. It makes my job a lot easier, because you show him one time and he’s got it.

“There are so many guys who are able to have that kind of speed, but can you have that speed play in and play out? They call him the Cheetah for a reason. He can run all day and he’s done a great job being the leader of our room and setting the tone on how we want to play.”

What has Waddle taken from Hill’s game?

“His approach” Waddle said. “I think I have a pretty good approach to the game, but... he takes every day as a new challenge. He’s a real deal technician when we’re in meetings. He’s a true professional. I think I can learn from it.”