There's already been plenty of talk about 2008 being Tye Hill's breakthrough season, his third in the league.
Hill came to league as a track star, and at 5'9" came with plenty wondering how exactly he would work out at the pro level. Turns out he did just fine. In his first season, he started 10 games, made 47 tackles and 3 INTs. Notable, but it was ultimately lost in the shuffle as the Rams defense struggled so mightily against the run.
Last year, Hill was on his way, eventhough the Rams started the season without Fakhir Brown and a questionable bunch at corner behind Hill. Lenny Walls anyone? After an 8 tackle day against Carolina to open the season, the Rams lost Hill for the next four games after sustaining an injury in practice. He was back for good run from week 6-13 making 26 tackles and 1 INT before being lost to a thumb.wrist injury for the rest of the season.
That was too bad. Not only could the Rams have used Hill - everyone knows they needed a bright spot - Hill might have had something of a breakthrough performance against pass happy teams like the Packers, Bengals and Cardinals in the last four weeks of the season. Of course, no team had much reason to pass against the Rams, when the games turned into run-out-the-clock excercises.
There's not really anythign magical about the third season for a cornerback. It takes time to learn the position at the pro level for all but the best of the best, esp with the NFL's rules about contact with eligible receivers that differ from the college game. Hill's already shown excellent ability in man-to-man coverage and his early numbers belie some of that rookie inconsistency that can show up from time to time.
If the Rams have a better, more consistent unit up front and can keep the d-backs together, then those expectations for Hill could very well come to fruition. The regular stat lines for corners hide much of their ability, but we can take somethin away from their number of INTs and passes defended.
Drafted two years prior to Hill, Falcons CB and noted mouth Deangelo Hall, whom Hill has been compared to before, brokeout in his second season with 6 INTs, 10 PD, and 59 tackles. Cowboys CB Terrance Newman had 4 INTs and 15 PD in his second season, after pulling in 6 INTs and a whopping 20 PD in his rookie year of 2003. Is it out of the question to expect similar numbers from Hill this season?