Jets WR coach: It's too early to call Stephen Hill a bust
By any measure, conventional or otherwise, Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill has been a huge disappointment. But his coach isn't ready to call him a bust.
By any measure, conventional or otherwise, Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill has been a huge disappointment. Drafted 43rd overall in 2012, the 6-4, 215-pound former Georgia Tech standout was supposed to be the big, fast downfield target that would make life easier for Mark Sanchez. Instead, Hill struggled as a rookie, catching 24 passes for 342 yards and one touchdown, and things got worse in 2013 when he managed just 21 receptions for 252 yards and three scores.
It wasn't like he had much competition; the Jets' passing offense ranked 28th in the league in 2013, according to Football Outsiders, and Jeremy Kerley, all 5-8 of him, led the team in with 43 receptions. Meanwhile, Hill ranked 88th in value per play among all wideouts ahead of only Davone Bess and Greg Little.
So it's reasonable to think that 2014 will be a make-or-break year for Hill, which is basically what Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal said earlier this week.
“It’s a little early to label him as a bust,” Lal told the New York Daily News. “When I think of bust, I don’t think of him that way. I have seen players who are higher picks that were busts because of their own laziness. Those are busts.”
“I have a hard time labeling a guy a bust when he’s done everything in his power. Luck in terms of injuries hasn’t been on his side. Therefore, he hasn’t produced consistently. And he’s still only 23 years old.”
It's a fair point, but that doesn't do anything to help a mostly anemic Jets offense. It's why the team signed wide receivers Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford, and running back Chris Johnson in the offseason, and drafted tight end Jace Amaro in the second round of May's draft (not to mention three other wideouts on Day 3).
“The learning curve has been steep (for Hill),” Lal continued. “We haven’t had the chance to rep it like we would (like to). So am I disappointed? On some level, yeah. I’m not disappointed in him, because I know he’s given it his all. Things haven’t worked out. I’d be disappointed in him if he wasn’t trying or wasn’t attentive. And he’s none of those things. He genuinely tries. He wants to be good. He does everything that’s asked. I’m just disappointed in the situation … and really most disappointed in that he has a label of being an inconsistent catcher… It’s not true. So that disappointments me.”
Back in September 2012, perhaps as a motivational ploy, coach Rex Ryan admitted that he didn't even want to draft Hill.
"Well, nothing told me he would (contribute),'' Ryan told SI.com's Don Banks at the time. "Nothing. When I saw the tape (of his collegiate play) I was concerned. But (then-Jets general manager) Mike Tannenbaum and (senior personnel executive) Terry Bradway and all our scouts were adamant about this guy. They were adamant that this guy can do it. He can run all these routes, he had good hands and he's got 4.2 speed at 6-foot-5. He was the guy they all wanted, but honestly, when it came down to it, a wideout? Not my dream pick. But now that we have him, of course, I want to claim him: 'Oh, that was my pick.' But it really wasn't.''
If you're a masochistic Jets fan (and by some definitions, you can't have one without the other), you'll love this: Two picks after New York selected Hill, Chicago took Alshon Jeffery.
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