After busting onto the NFL scene in Week 1 with a couple of touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill was quiet in Week 2. Quiet may actually be an understatement: Hill was dead silent.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' pass rush was in Mark Sanchez's face all day which didn't allow the Jets' quarterback to connect downfield with anybody, including Hill. The rookie receiver from Georgia Tech was targeted just twice but had a huge drop early in the second quarter on a deep pass down the right sideline. Ryan Clark was there in coverage but the ball hit Hill in the hands and fell to the turf, which was one of the knocks on him coming into the NFL.
That catch could have set the Jets up in a goal-to-go situation with the potential to go up 14-6. Instead, they were able to run the ball into the red zone but settled for a field goal to take a 10-6 lead. They didn't score again.
This article is not meant to bash Hill. Not at all. I am actually on record before the Jets picked in round two that I wanted Hill if they didn't trade up for Courtney Upshaw. The Jets needed a big target for Mark Sanchez to replace Plaxico Burress and a speed receiver who could stretch the field; Hill is both. He's a great fit for this team and I believe he'll be a very good player in the league.
The point of this piece is to make a simple comparison before people overreact to Hill's Week 2 struggles. Last year, a second-round wide receiver had a big game in September as well. It came in Week 3 and after two catch-less weeks, but the Baltimore Ravens' Torrey Smith came out of nowhere with 5 receptions, 152 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Rams early last season. His breakout game was actually better than Hill's.
The true comparison here lies in the follow up game, however. Smith received extra attention in Week 4 as a result of his huge performance and was going up against a strong defense. For those who remember, the Ravens played the Jets that week and Smith had one catch for one yard. Last week, a strong Steelers defense did exactly what the Jets did to Smith last season. They reacted to a young man's breakout performance and shut down a rookie who is still adjusting to the NFL game.
That's what good defenses do. Smith bounced back with 84 yards on 3 receptions in Week 5 against Houston, including a 51-yard catch, and I expect something similar from Hill this week. He's not likely to match his Week 1 numbers, but he should come down with a few catches and maybe even a big play. That's his game and the talent is there, but Hill will need to make an adjustment much like the Steelers did to shut him down last week if he expects to bounce back.
Looking at Smith's 2011 from a full-season perspective, he finished with 50 catches for 841 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Jets would be ecstatic if they got that kind of production from Hill, especially the yardage, considering I'm more bullish on Hill this year than my Jets 101 colleagues.
What's the moral of this story? Let's not write off Stephen Hill's potential for immediate impact after one bad week. Things change constantly in the NFL and one week's hero is the next week's goat. Don't be surprised to see Hill be one of the keys to a Jets' win in Miami tomorrow.
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