The Jets did not draft a wide receiver in the draft. Many (probably including the Jets) wanted Tavon Austin out of West Virginia. Problem was, he did not fall to us and the Rams scooped him up with the Bills pick. After that, even though several receivers fell to us none were taken. We did grab a few undrafted free agents, but why no impact players?
Simple: Stephen Hill, a name that conjures up images of Gholston (freak athlete but raw; bust), Ducasse (athlete but raw; probable bust) and a few other Mike Tannenbaum picks. He was drafted in the second round (much to Tinley24's dismay) and was known as a project, one who could be a bust or could be the next big thing to the wide receiver corps. Heir apparent to 2010 Braylon Edwards, he was supposed to stretch the field vertically and eventually learn the finer WR things like routes. Needless to say 2012 went about as poorly as one could imagine.
At first, things looked beyond promising. The first game out Hill caught 5 passes for 89 yards. Even better, he had 2 TD's. This was all while playing with a bug that caused him to get sick on the sidelines. Then the wheels came off the Jets wagon, and Hill wasn't much a factor the next 15 weeks.
He was ineffective against Pittsburgh, having only two balls thrown at him including a Mark Sanchez special that bounced to him. Against Miami Week 3, he injured his hamstring on a deep bal, and lost three games to injury.
The next few weeks were killers for Hill's prospects in 2012, in which he never touched the field. Against San Francisco, Holmes was lost for the year with a foot injury. That made Hill have to step in the role of number one wideout. Needless to say, that never happened. Hill was not supposed to be thrust right into that role. Numerous Jets coaches stated as such. He was supposed to be slowly developed during the year.
Thrust into the spotlight, Hill's next few games rivaled Houdini, simply disappearing from the stat book. If you take out the Buffalo game, Hill's 2012 season stats are very much disappointing, even for a project player to the tune of 163 yards and 1 TD in 10 games. Perhaps the most thing he was known for was drops. 22% of passes thrown were dropped, including an absolute killer against the Pats, in which he might have scored the Game winning TD. Week 11 against Jacksonville, his 2012 season was put to an end with an LCL sprain. Had the Jets had serious thoughts about competing for Playoffs, he could have come back, but reality being reality, he was shut down for the next three games.
Let's round up some excuses:
First off, the QB play was atrocious all year. Ditto for playcalling. Let's get that hurdle out of the way. In no way did that help his development and can explain his horrid numbers.
Second, his injuries cost him serious time and development. The hamstring cost him two weeks, and then the last injury cost him the last three games.
Last, the Jets were a banged up team without any other firepower outside of Kerley. Once Holmes went down, the WR corps(e) was void of any talent. Hill had to step up, even though the plan was to keep him from having to do so.
Going forward: If 2013 is going to be a success Hill needs to develop. And not just slowly, he must do it like a Polaroid, quickly.
We don't need him to become the next Moss or Megatron, but we need some production out of him. Hill in essence needs to lose the project tag, and become a force that defenses need to plan around. Holmes and Kerley both have shown to be decent receivers with brief flashes of greatness. Unfortunately, Kerley is not a superstar and Holmes is coming off a really bad injury, meaning Hill may be the guy that needs to be the big play guy. Because the Jets did not address the receiver problem through the draft, they must get as much production out of the guys currently on the roster, including Hill.
What do we need? 16 regular season games from Hill. Also, for him to sure up his hands, as he was one of the most prolific drop passing guys in the league. Those two things will help mightily. However, he also can't disappear for stretches of games. He must be able to fight off corners and make plays off the line. Needless to say, we need a fully ready to go Stephen Hill at the start of the regular season. He has to become a guy who is good/solid from the first game and not just a project. This is all while he becomes more comfortable with the offense and the NFL, making up for lost time.
Without Hill, we are left with Holmes who ix coming back from injury and on the wrong side of 30, and Kerley who is a good solid player but not a player defenses really game plan around. With the dearth of offensive playmaking talent outside of Holmes (if he's back to being good) Kerley and Geno, it looks like a long year for the offense.
Stephen Hill, if you're listening, you must step up in 2013 if the Jets are to succeed. If not, prepare to meet a replacement come 2014 draft day.