The New York Jets certainly are lacking in the talent department at wide receiver. Stephen Hill, the team’s second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, must step up and become a star right away in order for the Jets to have a successful passing game this season.
The only proven wide receiver the Jets have on their roster is Santonio Holmes. Holmes is a former Super Bowl MVP, but he has been a major distraction to the team recently. At the end of last season, Holmes was accused of “checking out early,” and he's now suffering from a rib injury that has him out of practice and doubtful for the team’s preseason opener.
Across from Holmes, the other starting wide receiver spot is still up for grabs. Hill has a much bigger upside than the other possible options—Chaz Schilens and Jeremy Kerley—so he must thrive during training camp and claim this spot on the Jets depth chart as his own.
Entering the NFL, Hill has all the physical attributes that a star wide receiver needs to have. He also stole the show at the NFL combine this year, which proves he has the ability to step up during pressure situations.
Hill measured in at the combine at 6’4” and 215 pounds. At this height, he also had one of the best leaping abilities in the entire draft. His vertical jump was 39.5 inches, good for fifth best at the combine. He also showcased his blistering speed that helped him thrive at Georgia Tech. Even with his height, Hill still tied for the fastest 40 time out of any player, clocking in at 4.36 seconds.
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“I’m ready to give the Jet fans something to scream about. Catching the ball from Mark Sanchez [will be] great. I’m going to make sure I get with him as soon as possible and try to get this roll on. It’s going to be a big transition. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to learn. I’m a quick learner, so I’m ready to see how things unfold.”
What will really help Hill become a star in only his rookie season is his terrific blocking ability. In college, Hill primarily played in a triple-option offense. This didn’t allow him to gain much experience running routes and catching the ball, but it definitely taught him how to block for his running backs.
Hill became an extremely physical player over the past three seasons, something the Jets need out of their wide receivers since they plan on going back to the ground-and-pound system that got them to the AFC Championship two years in a row.
Hill had this to say about his physicality on the field: “I can definitely put somebody on their butt. They liked my physicality a lot.”
Hill was off to a fast start when training camp opened, impressing both his new coaches and teammates. What makes him even more impressive was that his fast start was mainly against Darrelle Revis. Ryan really liked the way Hill was blocking against Revis, saying: “I saw a block, and I saw a corner go down.”
Quarterback Mark Sanchez also enjoyed playing with his newest weapon. On the first day of training camp, the two connected on a bunch of passes, including a deep TD over the best corner in the NFL. Sanchez spoke with the media about Hill after practice was over. "It was awesome and right out of the gate too," Sanchez said.
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Unfortunately, Hill has quieted down since his hot start. Brian Costello, Jets writer for the New York Post, had this to say about Hill’s performance on the field lately:
“Rookie Stephen Hill is having a very quiet camp. In fairness, he’s facing Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie most of the time, but he’s going to face tough cornerbacks in the season. It would be encouraging for the Jets if he showed them something this week.”
The Jets need Hill to prove he’s worthy of the second-round pick they used to select him. He has all the intangibles; it’s now just about him putting them all together on game days.
If he can be the dominant blocker he has proven he can be and becomes more consistent with his route running and catching ability, the sky is the limit for the New York Jets and Stephen Hill.