A Lot May Be Riding On Preseason Game Against Bengals For Nelson And Hill

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s nothing subtle about how the Jets do business, but the training camp battle for the second starting outside wide receiver spot has for the most part gone unnoticed.

That’s what happens when little is done to distinguish oneself.

We know big free agent signing Eric Decker is the Jets’ top target. He may be the best receiver in the AFC East. We also know Jeremy Kerley will start in the slot. He may be poised for a serious breakout season.

But as far as the other wideout job goes, it appears to still be wide open, which is why Saturday’s preseason game at Cincinnati could go a long way toward determining what the Jets’ receiving corps ultimately looks like come Week 1 of the regular season against the Oakland Raiders.

The top candidates for the second spot are David Nelson, who ended up being a steal last season after being signed off the street by the Jets early in the fall, and Stephen Hill, who has yet to realize the promise that many believe should come with his ability.

Nelson’s 36 receptions last season were tied for second on the team. In 12 games, the 27-year-old out of Florida also posted 423 yards and two touchdowns. And while those numbers aren’t overwhelming, he played a big part in the Jets finishing .500 as he recorded nine catches over the final two games of the season, both wins.

Nelson, who had 61 receptions for the Buffalo Bills back in 2011, also had a season-high eight grabs during the Jets’ 49-9 loss at Cincinnati back on Oct. 27.

Hill, the Jets’ second-round pick back in 2012, has just 45 receptions, 594 yards and four touchdowns during his two NFL seasons. He was a constant target of angst from fans during his extremely underwhelming 2013 season.

Though Hill has said he’s not worried about the criticism he receives, it’s hard to take him at his word considering what he recently told the Daily News.

“Honestly I could give three …,” Hill said, before thinking twice about completing the sentence. “I could care less about what they think. Nothing what they say bothers me. I listen to (John Idzik), I listen to coach Sanjay (Lal) and I listen to Rex (Ryan) and Marty Mornhinweg. That’s the only people I listen to.

“Other than that, fans, I could care less what they say,” he added. “I enjoy that they come to the games and cheer us on, but if they have anything negative to say… I don’t care.”

Both Nelson and Hill have had moments during training camp, but neither has distinguished himself enough to warrant being called the favorite to land the job. Nelson hasn’t made a lot of big plays and Hill still battles the drops and disappears from time to time.

As far as Ryan is concerned, Saturday’s game against the Bengals is the perfect opportunity for one of them to make a statement.

“If somebody jumps out and puts on a Victor Cruz-performance like he did against us in that preseason game, I’ll definitely sign up for that,” Ryan told reporters earlier this week.

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