Rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill had an illustrious college career with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, as he was the top deep threat in the nation last year with an average of 29.3 yards per catch to lead the NCAA. He caught 28 passes for a monstrous total of 820 yards and was one of the top player’s in the conference; his raw physical talent is definitely there already.
Drafted in the second-round by the New York Jets, big things are expected out of the rookie wideout. He looked good in OTAs, but Hill’s camp performances left a lot to be desired. There has been a lot of transitioning to do for Hill, as he is coming from a triple-option offense at GT that doesn’t resemble anything near Tony Sparano’s offense with the Jets. Not only that, but it’s not easy for a rookie wideout to go up against Darrelle Revis in practice (and, insert mandatory Tebow dig here).
The two big knocks on Stephen Hill coming in on draft day were that he is too raw, comes from an offense in college that isn’t NFL-friendly, and he isn’t a good route-runner. Hill even consented that his route-running isn’t refined yet, and that contributed to a mercurial camp. He has shown his athletic ability with some big plays, but Hill can also be shut down easily due to his inexperience.
In the team’s first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Hill caught just two passes for 17 yards. Much like in training camp, Hill was largely ineffective but made a few good plays. He made Terrence Newman look silly- yeah, not THAT impressive considering Newman’s age and lack of ability at this stage- on one occasion, but he also dropped a pass. As expected, the Jets seemed to “dumb down” the offense for the rookie, and the preseason game was as expected.
The problem for Hill is that he is a raw wideout without pro-style experience who is being thrust into a role and position where he is expected to learn things on the fly. He is currently listed as the team’s number two starter next to Santonio Holmes. While it is true that he is the team’s second most talented receiver at this stage, there will be struggles early on.
The Jets offense was extremely tight-end friendly under previous offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and Dustin Keller’s targets certainly reflected that. Keller should be heavily targeted, but one can only wonder how many times Hill will be thrown to as a rookie. Holmes is locked in as the number one starter, and Sparano’s offense is very run-heavy and will likely depress Hill’s targets.
That’s actually a good thing, and it’s for more than just the simple fact that Hill is a raw player. He is more of a deep threat receiver who should get targeted a few times in a game with the ability to make a big catch at certain points. He’s that big-play deep threat receiver who gets maybe five targets max. per game, and his numbers in college reflect that.
With the Jets looking a bit thin beyond Hill at receiver, it’s up to the Georgia Tech product to make good on his high second-round value and give the Jets what they need; a deep threat. The routes shouldn’t be overly complicated, but it is still of concern that he is a little more raw than expected. That should get better, however, and the knocks on Hill- as well as the praise for his athleticism and raw talent- have been right on in camp and in the first game of training camp.
By the way, I like to focus on other AFC East teams and key storylines from those teams so that the content isn’t just focused on the Patriots. I mean, it’s always good to talk about what’s going on with the rivals.