Third-Year Wideout Now In A Dogfight Just To Make The Final 53-Man Roster

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — With Mark Sanchez no longer around, Stephen Hill has become the unofficial whipping boy among Jets fans.

And he’s done little this summer to earn a reprieve.

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In fact, as Hill embarked on what has turned out, for him, to be a very underwhelming training camp and preseason, the Jets attempted to trade the third-year wide receiver, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported on Tuesday.

Hill, who was drafted in the second round out of Georgia Tech back in 2012, has been given every opportunity to earn a starting spot alongside Eric Decker, but has failed to distinguish himself in any way. He talked a big game back in the spring, even stating he had grown a bit since last season.

To say Hill, who is about 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, is a physical specimen is putting it mildly, but since recording 13 catches for 233 yards and a TD over the first three games of the 2013 season he has done little to convince anyone he can be a starting receiver in this league.

Hill finished last season with 24 catches for 342 yards and that lone touchdown, and had just one catch over his final four games before a left-knee problem landed him on season-ending injured reserve.

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He looked good during OTAs and the early part of training camp, but has since reverted to previous form, suffering from drops, poor route running and an apparent lack of confidence. He has played 94 snaps, but has been targeted just six times, with two receptions, over the first three preseason games.

The Jets have to get down to 53 players by Saturday at 4 p.m. Between now and then the team has a few days of practice sandwiched around its final preseason game, Thursday night in Philadelphia. Hill is expected to play a lot as the Jets try to figure out which receivers they will keep heading into the regular season opener on Sept. 7, against the visiting Oakland Raiders.

As it stands right now, Decker is the Jets’ unquestioned No. 1 wideout. Jeremy Kerley will likely be the No. 2 in two-receiver sets and will shift to the slot in more traditional passing sets. In offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s scheme the Jets will present multiple looks on offense, meaning there will be a glaring need for four receivers who can get the job done.

The Jets cut veteran Jacoby Ford not long after last week’s preseason game against the Giants. They still have veteran David Nelson, Hill, inexperienced-but-impressive Greg Salas, veterans Clyde Gates and Saalim Hakim — who figures to handle kick returns as his primary responsibility — and rookies Jalen Saunders and Quincy Enunwa on the roster.

The question now becomes: how many receivers will the Jets keep? They used five for most of last season.

Considering quarterback Geno Smith will not play and Michael Vick may get a series on Thursday, Hill and the rest of the receivers vying for a roster spot will have to take their final exams catching passes from Matt Simms and rookie Tajh Boyd.

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