JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tyreek Hill is fast. Like superfast. Potentially historically fast.
The Kansas City Chiefs receiver ran a 4.19-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, which would eclipse the fastest 40 in NFL combine history (Bengals receiver John Ross ran 4.22 in 2017). He also was timed at 4.25 seconds at a Nike SPARQ Camp.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive players say they’re ready for it on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. They also believe they can match it.
“They’re a fast group, but we’re a fast group,” linebacker Telvin Smith said. “Like we said, this is going to be the best against the best. Make your move. We’re going to make our move.
“Come out and be ready to play.”
The speed on the Jaguars’ defense is somewhat overlooked because of cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s trash talk, defensive end Calais Campbell’s dominance as a pass-rusher (17.5 sacks in his past 20 games) and their gaudy stats, but it’s one of the reasons the unit is so good.
That's especially true at linebacker, where two of the three starters have run sub-4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Rookie Leon Jacobs had the second-fastest 40 time at the NFL combine (4.48, behind only Shaquem Griffin’s 4.38). Myles Jack did not run the 40 at the combine or his pro day in 2016 because he was recovering from a knee injury but has been timed as low as 4.46.
He already has scored two defensive touchdowns in his career: an 81-yard fumble return against the New York Jets in 2017 and a 32-yard interception return in the 2018 season opener against the New York Giants.
One of the best examples of Jack’s speed came in a minicamp practice in his rookie season. He came from the opposite side of the field to run down receiver Marqise Lee on a jet sweep for a 1-yard gain.
Smith ran the second-fastest time among linebackers at the 2014 combine (4.52). That was enough to make the Jaguars overlook that he is an undersized linebacker (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) by NFL standards and draft him in the fifth round.
Smith’s speed has been his biggest asset as a playmaker. He leads the NFL in solo tackles (364) since he entered the league and has four defensive touchdowns. He scored three touchdowns last season: a 28-yard interception return against Pittsburgh in October, a fumble recovery in the end zone against Cleveland and a 50-yard fumble return against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. Smith also had a 26-yard interception return for a TD against Buffalo in 2015.
Jack and Smith will have to deal with Hill on short passes, and they believe their speed will keep him from turning those into bigger gains. Hill averages 15.8 yards per catch and has nine offensive plays of 50 or more yards in his career (eight for touchdowns).
The secondary will deal with Hill and Watkins much more than the linebackers. The Jaguars allowed Jets receivers Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson to get behind the coverage twice last week, but rookie quarterback Sam Darnold was unable to connect on what would have been big plays. That can’t happen this week because Patrick Mahomes won’t miss.
The Jaguars are confident in their matchups, though.
“Fastest defense in the National Football League,” safety Tashaun Gipson said. “Absolutely. It’s no question about it. We’re going against a fast offense. This is the fastest defense. I definitely think we don’t get enough credit [for speed], but I guess Sunday we’re going to see.”