Stephen Hill vs. the Buffalo Bills

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

How did Stephen Hill actually do against the Buffalo Bills?

Stephen Hill has taken a lot of slack this season, especially after being held without a catch the past two weeks. Despite being drafted as a multi-year project, he has been asked to be the New York Jets' number one receiver with very little help. Throughout the season, he has rarely had someone opposite him to relieve some of the pressure with Santonio Holmes out for a large part of the season.

With that in mind, I decided it was time to investigate whether or not we were being unfairly critical of Hill, or if he deserved the criticism. I have watched and graded each of Hill's snaps against the Buffalo Bills using the All-22 coach's footage, and found out the following. I have included a table below which shows Hill on a snap-by-snap basis. In the column labeled "ROUTE," I have used the numerical value of the route he was running for simplicity. Please use this chart as an indicator of which route is what (a 0 route indicates a blocking play).

Each play is graded by averaging the respective components of the play. I graded each play with a numerical value of -1, 0, or 1 based on my perception of if Hill accomplished what he was asked to do on any given play. A -1 means Hill failed to do what he what he was asked, 0 means he may have executed well in some respects but poorly in others, and a 1 indicates Hill executed his job well. I have also italicized any play in which Hill was targeted for a pass. I would normally include categories to give Hill credit for catches, drops, and yards after catch, however, as you'll see, they were not necessary for this game.

ROUTE GRADE RELEASE SEPARATION ROUTE RUNNING BLOCKING COVERAGE NOTES
Q1 7 -1 -1 -1 -1 Press man, double Held entire play, should have been flagged.
0 1 1 Press man Excellent blocking.
0 0 0 Off man
6 0.5 0 1 Off man
0 1 1 Off man Excellent blocking.
4 0.66 1 0 1 Press man
0 0 0 Off man
9 0.5 0 1 Zone, triple Used to clear out for Holmes underneath.
4 0.66 1 0 1 Press man
0 1 1 Off man Shoved CB to the ground like it was nothing.
4 1 1 1 Off man
0 0 0 Off man
0 1 1 Press man
ROUTE GRADE RELEASE SEPARATION ROUTE RUNNING BLOCKING COVERAGE NOTES
Q2 8 1 1 1 Off man Wide open deep.
6 -1 -1 -1 Off man Got walloped, cut was too rounded.
9 0.5 0 1 Off man
2 0 -1 1 Zone, double
0 -1 -1 Zone A teammate cut his legs out, but he blocked air.
9 1 1 1 Off man
5 0.5 0 1 Off man Overthrown, never had a chance. Geno Smith under pressure.
0 1 1 Off man
9 0.5 0 1 Off man, double Used to clear out for Holmes underneath.
ROUTE GRADE RELEASE SEPARATION ROUTE RUNNING BLOCKING COVERAGE NOTES
Q3 0 1 1 Off man Appears to have been aborted screen pass.
4 -0.5 -1 0 Off man Overthrown, but Hill couldn't get separation anyway.
9 1 1 1 1 Press man, double Pressed and double covered, Hill was still open. But he also cleared out the underneath for a big catch by Holmes.
2 to 7 1 1 1 Off man Held entire play, should have been flagged, but still open in the corner. Overthrown.
0 -1 -1 Off man
9 0.5 0 1 Off man
0 0 0 Off man
4 0.5 0 1 Off man Smith threw the ball wide, appears to be a miscommunication.
5 -1 -1 -1 Off man Hill didn't drop it, as the CB swatted it first, but he probably should have caught it anyway. Cut was way too rounded.
0 0 0 Off man
8 1 1 1 Zone Open deep, Smith threw to a covered Holmes instead and was intercepted.
4 1 1 1 Off man
9 1 1 1 Off man Used as a decoy to clear out the underneath.
2 0 0 0 Off man
8 1 1 1 Off man Hill made a great adjustment to the ball in the air but it was overthrown just out of reach. Hill was held, flag thrown.
0 1 1 Zone
0 -1 -1 Zone Awful blocking job by Hill, missed two defenders that could have opened a big run.
0 -1 -1 Zone Zero effort block by Hill
4 0 0 0 Zone, double Smith threw the ball wide, appears to be a miscommunication. Might have been intercepted if on target.
ROUTE GRADE RELEASE SEPARATION ROUTE RUNNING BLOCKING COVERAGE NOTES
Q4 0 1 1 Off man Matt Simms is in.
8 -0.5 0 -1 Off man, double
6 1 1 1 Off man
0 1 1 Off man
0 0 0 Off man
0 0 Off man Hill ran a fake end-around, serving as a decoy.
0 0 Off man Hill ran a fake end-around, serving as a decoy.
8 1 1 1 Off man Hill was held but still wide open in the end zone, pass was tipped at the line.
Overall: 0.34
Pass: 0.42
Run: 0.26

As you can see, by my grades, Hill had an overall score of .34, a pass score of .42, and a run score of .26. In my opinion, Hill had a positive game. It wasn't great, but it wasn't the debacle I think it's been made out to be. Here are a few thoughts from watching the game:

Hill was almost exclusively used as either a deep threat to draw coverage out and open underneath passes, or he was used as a blocker. To give you some context for this, in the first quarter, Hill was asked to block on seven out of thirteen plays. On the remaining six plays, he was massively held on one, double-covered on one, and triple-covered on another. That left just three plays in the first quarter where he could even be looked at as a possible receiver.

On the vast majority of plays, Geno Smith never looked at Hill, even when he was wide open. A lot of this had to due with Smith running for his life on many plays or being forced to throw the ball as he was under pressure immediately. As Hill was mostly running deep plays, there simply wasn't enough time to set up plays to Hill.

However, when Hill was targeted (eight times, although one play ended with a flag), the ball was rarely even remotely close to him. In fact, of those eight targets, only two were within arm's length of Hill. On one of those, he made a great adjustment but was held which sent the play back. On the second, the ball was swatted away by a cornerback that was essentially attached to Hill at the hip. On many other plays, as I said, Hill was wide open but not targeted.

Overall, I think Hill did the most that he could this game. Smith was either under tremendous pressure or too inaccurate for any of the plays to Hill to work. Hill was generally used as a decoy or a blocker, to no fault of his own. It will be interesting to see what Marty Mornhinweg can draw up for him next week.

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