NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — He had a 2013 season to forget, but now Stephen Hill thinks he’s mature enough to make an impact in the NFL.
He better do something, because it’s clear the Jets aren’t sitting around and waiting for him to come into his own on his own timetable.
Hill was a risky pick when the Jets took him in the second round of the 2012 draft. He came from an option offense at Georgia Tech and was selected more based on his raw ability. But two pro seasons later it has become evident that his football IQ has not yet caught up to the gifts he was born with as his rookie season was a drop-fest and his sophomore campaign never quite got off the ground following what was considered an impressive training camp.
“I’ve been working hard this offseason — working hard to make sure I stay healthy, getting my legs stronger, squatting more than I have in two years now,” Hill told Metro New York. “It’s getting better. (I’m) just happy to be back here, getting back to OTAs.”
The Jets had the first of their organized team activities on Tuesday in Florham Park, N.J.
“Basically it’s just a learning curve. Learning, you know, during my rookie season, having so much on my plate. I really didn’t know much,” Hill told Metro New York. “Last year, the learning curve, it helped me out a lot. Being out here especially with (offensive coordinator) Marty Mornhinweg and (wide receivers) coach Sanjay (Lal), they stay on me like two mad dogs.”
They need to because Hill managed just 45 receptions, 594 yards and 4 touchdowns during his first two years for teams that were basically begging for anyone to catch passes. He was held without a reception in four games during the 2013 season, and finished the season with just one catch in the Jets’ final four games.
Hill, though, says he’s ready to take his game to the next level, thanks in part to his genetics.
“Well physically, I grew an inch-and-a-half the past few months,” Hill said. “I am just 23. I was 6-foot-3 and some change. Now [I am] over 6-foot-4 — definitely added some muscle as well.”
Whereas before Hill got every opportunity to make a name for himself because the Jets had very few options at wide receiver, the situation now is vastly different. They will head into camp later this summer with arguably the best receiver in the AFC East on their roster, as well as three other solid veterans and a few rookies.
Just where Hill fits in with veterans Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson and Jacoby Ford figuring to command the majority of the targets remains to be seen. At this point, Hill isn’t even a lock to be higher on the depth chart than any of the three receivers the Jets drafted, though he certainly has the ability to separate himself from several of his teammates.
“It makes me come out there and get better,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of competition coming out there. These guys are pretty good wide receivers. That’s not my problem. I’m just coming out there to do what I got to do to make the team.
“I can’t play like Eric Decker, I can only play like Stephen Hill.”
Which the Jets hope means a lot more than it did his first two seasons.
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