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Thread: Conor Orr: No longer under pressure, Stephen Hill ready to break out in second season

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    Conor Orr: No longer under pressure, Stephen Hill ready to break out in second season

    Sanjay Lal keeps a yearly calendar in his binder marked, to the day, with what Stephen Hill has done and what he will need to learn.

    Hill was arguably one of the most physically gifted players in the 2012 NFL Draft, taken in the second round by the Jets. He is a player who, Lal says, is more polished in technique but raw instinctively. A football mind-set needs to be fostered.

    This is why there are special film sessions, workout plans and exercises.

    There are special meetings with quizzes, coverage recognition and route specificity.

    "Reps and reps and reps," Lal, Jets wide receivers coach, said. "Then, he starts to get a feel for what you’re doing. The more he learns why, the more feel he’ll have."

    But then there are the things Hill must do himself; obstacles he must overcome without the help of a coach or calendar. Last year, he encountered the typical potholes — nagging injuries, an overload of information in a maddening environment — and the not-so-typical. At one point last season a fan once obtained his personal cell phone number and harassed him, via text message, about his uneven play. Hill slogged through games injured, desperate to keep pace and shoulder more responsibility in a woeful offense. He disliked having to explain himself to reporters.

    It amounted to a rookie season with flashes of both brilliance and frustration. Hill can smile now when he admits how he felt, like he was simply lost and running in space.

    "It’s not hard, it’s just annoying," Hill told The Star-Ledger on a quiet afternoon last week in Florham Park. "We’re always on ESPN for something, and it was just a lot. It put pressure on learning, and then having to explain if I messed up, so that’s where most of the pressure was.

    "It probably did throw me off during games, you’re just out there running. That’s what it felt like. I was out there running but I didn’t understand the whole football concept."

    With the Jets searching for salvation in the passing game, Hill knows he will need to play a bigger role, especially with Santonio Holmes on the mend and no new rookies piping in from the draft. It is a responsibility that, after his trial run in 2012, he says he is ready for. He says he is bigger, stronger and faster than before. The strained LCL that preceded the knee surgery that ended his season in December has healed.

    A week removed from his 22nd birthday, he is talking about catch and yardage goals for the first time. He says he’s pushing aside mere potential, and shooting for the Pro Bowl.

    "Even Jerry Rice in his rookie year, he dropped balls and people booed him," said Hill, who caught 21 passes for 252 yards and three TDs in 11 games last season. "… I can’t hear what people think because this is my job. It’s not their job."

    CAUGHT ON QUICKLY
    Hill toyed with the Bills in his NFL debut, hauling in five passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns amid a 48-28 Jets victory.

    For Lal, seeing this was an assurance that his plan was working. It was also a concern — with a player in development, too much early success could derail the finite technical work needed to bring Hill’s game along.

    "It was good and bad," Lal said. "You love that it’s happening, but you tell the player — hey now, it’s not going to be like this next week. Buffalo played you in free access, now the rest of the league says ‘If we play Stephen in free access he’s going to kill us.…"

    He told Hill: "There will be a plan next week to not let you catch five for 89 and two touchdowns."

    Sure enough, Hill was held without a catch the following week against Pittsburgh. As a hamstring injury began to gnaw at his wary legs, he went without a grab in Week 3 as well, exiting the game early.

    He caught one more touchdown pass on the season in a victory over the Colts, but the year was more memorable for a few untimely drops. When asked about one in particular — a crucial third down against New England where, Lal says, Hill simply took his eye off the ball — Hill said he was glad he was put in that situation despite being made to feel like he lost the game for his team.

    "As the weeks went on, it got worse and worse," Hill said. "I got injured and that set me back, too. I just took that whole year as a learning experience."

    In the eyes of his coaches, it was an internship of sorts. Lal treats Hill’s case similar to that of Darrius Heyward-Bey, another high-talent project he undertook at his previous stop as Oakland’s receivers coach. When the Raiders drafted the speedy receiver, Lal presented a step-by-step plan not unlike the one Hill is on now.

    Heyward-Bey’s trajectory under Lal looked like this:
    Year 1: 9 catches, 124 yards, 1 touchdown
    …Year 2: 26 catches, 366 yards, 1 touchdown
    …Year 3: 64 catches, 975 yards, 4 touchdowns

    Lal hopes sticking by the plan will yield similar results for Hill.

    "We had a systematic plan," Lal said. "You saw the progression, and that was really enjoyable. Honestly, it hurt to not continue that. It hurt to leave (Oakland). Every exit meeting, we were talking about the next step."

    A LEARNING CURVE
    Hill used to hate the complements.

    During the pre-Draft workout process, scouts and executives would treat Hill like a fourth-grader learning linear algebra. Any progress is worth celebrating.

    The stigma of coming from an option offense in college (Georgia Tech) left him with the impression that teams thought he wasn’t intelligent, that he hadn’t been playing the game his entire life.

    "I didn’t like the way that, when people saw me run a route, they congratulated me," Hill said. "I’ve been running routes since high school, I just went to a different college.

    "We ran a lot of routes in high school. I played with Geno Smith in a high school all-star game and we ran all the NFL routes. Like, it’s the same routes. I didn’t like that. Just tell me what to do."

    Last year only stoked the fire. He went from being the project player to the receiver without hands. The "drops guy."

    It led him to delete his Twitter account, where piles of mentions buzzed straight to his phone telling him he wasn’t good enough. He took down his Instagram soon after that. He changed his cell phone number when a fan began harassing him, telling him it was Hill’s fault the team wasn’t better.

    "It was weird, I don’t know how he got my number," Hill said. "Then Twitter got bad, for me. It just got so bad I deleted everything."

    He knew the coaches had confidence in him, as did his teammates. But as a 21-year-old rookie, the world is disturbingly small when seemingly every ring on his phone is a friend calling to ask why he was being trashed on television, or when every highlight is a reel of footballs whistling through his hands or miscommunication on routes. He gave himself some time in the offseason to return home to Georgia and tune it all out. He knew that expectations — the nutty fans, the press, the analysts — would never stop spinning around him. He would have to handle it.

    Soon after he began his rehab, his head coach put the league, and Hill, on notice.

    "It needs to be a lot better than year one because Stephen is a guy that has a lot of ability," Ryan said of Hill in February at the NFL Scouting Combine. "His ceiling is really high. Like many guys as rookies, many receivers coming into this league as rookies, a lot of inconsistency. Some weeks he was outstanding, other weeks not so much, but I expect him to improve by leaps and bounds going into year two."

    READY TO BREAK OUT
    Last week, Hill entered the room fresh from a practice clutching a bottled workout drink.

    He says he is more relaxed now, and cannot wait to operate in new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s offense, an aggressive system that racks up yardage in the passing game and unleashes All-Pro wideouts.

    "We gotta get that whole quarterback situation handled," Hill said, laughing about his team’s five-way battle for the starting QB job. "We have to get that handled first before we start throwing it really deep."

    Lal instructed Hill to begin watching more tape of the great wide receivers to prepare — see how every move Rice makes has a purpose, how Andre Johnson controls and adjusts his body, how Anquan Boldin blocks downfield.

    He tells Hill that he can have all those tools and combine them into one receiver.

    Hill takes that as a compliment, and not as a burden anymore.

    "Stephen is so gifted," Lal said. "He can be whoever he wants to be."

    http://www.nj.com/jets/index.ssf/201...es_experi.html
    Last edited by C Mart; 05-06-2013 at 09:04 AM.

  2. #2
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    I think this kids gonna be good....

  3. #3
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    i agree that Hill has all the potential in the world, but he's about as far as you can be to hitting it. hopefully he's a 2 year project, not a 3 year project as the cliché on receivers goes.

    with the glass half full, i expect him to start 'clicking' by mid-season. in theory, Hill, Holmes, and Kerley could form a fairly dynamic trio.

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    Great read and welcome distraction from work thanks for posting.

    We all knew he was raw coming out of a run oriented college. We also know he was probably the most physically gifted receiver that came out last year. I really believe he'll be much better this year, last year was a wash our offense was beyond horrible. He's the reason we haven't resigned Bray IMO, he can block, stretch the field and he's not a problem off the field. I wouldn't be surprised if he put up around 800 yards and 6-8 TDs this year.. as long as whoever plays qb plays decent.

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    It is so important for this offense that Hill develops into the player that he was drafted to be. Crucial.

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    Great read. Really hope Hill lives up to his Potential. Needs the qb play to improve tho.

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    s Hill is going to be the most effected by going to the WCo offense. You have to run precise routes and have to be able to read defenses as a Wr.(not for a raw Wr) Santonio Holmes will be very good in this offense and S Hill will probably struggle .

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    Quote Originally Posted by JETS2417 View Post
    Great read and welcome distraction from work thanks for posting.

    We all knew he was raw coming out of a run oriented college. We also know he was probably the most physically gifted receiver that came out last year. I really believe he'll be much better this year, last year was a wash our offense was beyond horrible. He's the reason we haven't resigned Bray IMO, he can block, stretch the field and he's not a problem off the field. I wouldn't be surprised if he put up around 800 yards and 6-8 TDs this year.. as long as whoever plays qb plays decent.
    A decent QB might have done a lot to build his confidence and numbers. By the way, what kind of Jets fan would call him or harass him on Twitter?

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    Interesting article...all the working out, body movements etc - glad to hear it. But did he learn to catch the ball with his hands?

    Was he using a ball machine EVERY DAY this winter catching 1000's of balls a week? Did he change his natural instinct of letting the ball come to him and catching with his body to going and getting the ball with his hands.

    If he did that he's going to break out, if he didn't he won't!!!!

  10. #10
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    Interesting to hear Hill is FASTER this year. That is encouraging. Also, nice tidbit that he played with Geno Smith in a H.S all star game a few years ago. Probably the last time he played with a decent QB.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by fidelioion View Post
    Interesting article...all the working out, body movements etc - glad to hear it. But did he learn to catch the ball with his hands?

    Was he using a ball machine EVERY DAY this winter catching 1000's of balls a week? Did he change his natural instinct of letting the ball come to him and catching with his body to going and getting the ball with his hands.

    If he did that he's going to break out, if he didn't he won't!!!!
    that's the thing, whether he can improve the hand catching. i think geno will help all the wrs, his ball placement was better in college.

  12. #12
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    Great read, great article. Alas, it wasn't a Cimini, Manish, or any other a-hole NY media diatribe. Connor is one of the few who doesn't have an agenda.

    But this article also reminds me(us) how pathetic the Jets fanbase can be, and why we collectively as a fanbase need to relax a little and let some of these friggin players develop.

    Fans want everything right away, nobody is willing to allow a player, coach, the team to go through ups and downs and try to figure things out.

    I get it, results matter, but if only half the fanbase understood all that goes into sports, a player's confidence, injuries that we never see or read about, mental pressure, and how it impacts players, and the injuries on the team that impacts the team and the coaching staff on what they can do, it would actually help the players and the team we so badly want to succeed.

    We all want the same thing, succes and a championship, but the fan base needs to dial it down a notch, and give these players and coaches a chance to fix things if/when they are broken, but that doesn't happen, every player's struggle or problem, once it happens, the fan base's response is always "get rid of the player/coach yesterday."

    It just doesn't always work like that in sports, at all levels.

    Oh, and to the jackass fan that harrassed Hill by sending him texts, hopefully, karma took care of his dumb ass! Fans like that need to be punished legally and severely!!!!

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    A WR takes a bit to develop unlike a RB who is ready right away.
    The only drawbacks on Hill (who has physical Talent) is he came from a program where they never threw and he doesn't know how to use his hands.
    He essentially will probably never be better than an average #2, which is fine if a team has a real #1.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by palmetto defender View Post
    A WR takes a bit to develop unlike a RB who is ready right away.
    The only drawbacks on Hill (who has physical Talent) is he came from a program where they never threw and he doesn't know how to use his hands.
    He essentially will probably never be better than an average #2, which is fine if a team has a real #1.
    He'll never be better than an average #2 because of where he played in college?

    Is that honestly what you're saying?

  15. #15
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    Conor Orr: No longer under pressure, Stephen Hill ready to break out in secon...

    This kid could be the the difference maker this offense has been starving for. But I don't know how much pressure he was under. Everyone recognized that he was a developmental player that needed some serious polishing.

    He needs all the reps he can get but he needs to stay healthy in order to do that. Also needs to learn how to use his body, long arms and hands. Has to learn to go up and get the ball rather than wait for it to come to him.

    Would love to see him beat Revis deep a couple of times in the opener.

  16. #16
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    of course, PFT has already cherry-picked the quotes in the article to turn it into another "ZOMg Jets R circus!!" negative piece.


    and people are taking the bait...

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by DDNYjets View Post
    This kid could be the the difference maker this offense has been starving for. But I don't know how much pressure he was under. Everyone recognized that he was a developmental player that needed some serious polishing.

    He needs all the reps he can get but he needs to stay healthy in order to do that. Also needs to learn how to use his body, long arms and hands. Has to learn to go up and get the ball rather than wait for it to come to him.

    Would love to see him beat Revis deep a couple of times in the opener.
    How great would that be!!!

  18. #18
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    My stance on Hill was well documented. He was very disappointing.

    That said, he has raw talent that you can't coach. The things that are wrong with him are coachable. I'm rooting for him but I'm certainly not holding out any type of hope that he'll be a big contributor to our team. We'll see.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by fidelioion View Post
    He'll never be better than an average #2 because of where he played in college?

    Is that honestly what you're saying?

    He looked just like Megatron last year? EXPERIENCE is valuable. College is a place to learn your game. GT did not prepare him. He had 49 catches his ENTIRE colllege career. There are guys who do that in half a college season.

    There are 3 very good+ players on the Jets. Mangold, Brick and Cromartie.
    The rest range form above average (Wilkerson), averege (many) to poor (several). That's life. The Jets have not had a good front office recently. We'll see about Idzik - soon.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Ray19 View Post
    Great read, great article. Alas, it wasn't a Cimini, Manish, or any other a-hole NY media diatribe. Connor is one of the few who doesn't have an agenda.

    But this article also reminds me(us) how pathetic the Jets fanbase can be, and why we collectively as a fanbase need to relax a little and let some of these friggin players develop.

    Fans want everything right away, nobody is willing to allow a player, coach, the team to go through ups and downs and try to figure things out.

    I get it, results matter, but if only half the fanbase understood all that goes into sports, a player's confidence, injuries that we never see or read about, mental pressure, and how it impacts players, and the injuries on the team that impacts the team and the coaching staff on what they can do, it would actually help the players and the team we so badly want to succeed.

    We all want the same thing, succes and a championship, but the fan base needs to dial it down a notch, and give these players and coaches a chance to fix things if/when they are broken, but that doesn't happen, every player's struggle or problem, once it happens, the fan base's response is always "get rid of the player/coach yesterday."

    It just doesn't always work like that in sports, at all levels.

    Oh, and to the jackass fan that harrassed Hill by sending him texts, hopefully, karma took care of his dumb ass! Fans like that need to be punished legally and severely!!!!
    Great Post!!!!!!

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