|Hill has gone without a catch in four games this season. (US Presswire)|
Stephen Hill was supposed to give the Jets that big downfield target to replace Plaxico Burress and line up opposite Santonio Holmes. Along with Dustin Keller and Shonn Greene he was supposed to be another weapon for Mark Sanchez, but things have gone horribly wrong, obviously.
Burress wasn't re-signed, Holmes is on injured reserve, Keller missed a chunk of the season with a balky hamsring, Green has been ineffective and Sanchez could eventually lose his job to the punt protector -- and rookie second-rounder Hill hasn't caught a pass since Week 8 -- and he's been shutout four times this season.
Against the Rams, Hill dropped an easy throw and was later called for pass interference. It's easy to understand why the Jets might lean more on Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens, but coach Rex Ryan says he hasn't lost confidence in Hill, who missed practice last week because he was sick.
“Sometimes when you have rookie players, young players, and they miss the whole week of practice -- you have these kind of lapses,” Ryan said according to the New York Daily News.
“Has he lost some confidence? I'm not sure,” Ryan continued. “One thing I know for sure, we're going to keep throwing it to him. He can get separation from people. The fun part and the easy part of the job is catching the football.”
If getting separation isn't the problem, it's Hill's inability to hold onto the ball. His catch rate of 41 percent is the worst among all the receivers in the Football Outsiders ratings.
Sanchez, who knows something about losing confidence, thinks Hill will be fine.
“He's working his butt off and that's the most important thing. He's not getting down, he's still a positive kid, he's still working hard and doing everything he possibly can,” Sanchez said. “We'll keep him rolling, I've got all the faith in the world in him. I think he's going to make big plays for us down the stretch. This year, and for years to come.”
That's the thing: It would be nice if Hill seamlessly transitioned from college to the NFL, but it rarely happens that way. And since the Jets don't appear to be going anywhere this year, the hope is that Hill can use the opportunity to get better in a (relatively) pressure-free environment.
And next year, when Holmes is healthy and the offensive line issues have been addressed, and the quarterback issues resolved, New York will have a formidable trio of pass catchers to complement whomever ends up under center. In theory, anyway.
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