Jets appear ready to give up on Stephen Hill

New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill walks

New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill walks off the field at the Atlantic Health practice facility. (May 24, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/Joe Epstein)

The relationship was flawed from the start, when Rex Ryan questioned the decision to draft Stephen Hill. So after more than two years of waiting to see if Hill was ready to develop into the big-time receiver the Jets had hoped for, the divorce seems inevitable.

Hill came to the Jets as a second-round pick in 2012, a speedster out of Georgia Tech who wowed scouts at the combine with a 4.31 40-yard dash. So smitten was the Jets' scouting staff that general manager Mike Tannenbaum moved up four spots to select the 6-4, 215-pounder.

The Jets thought they had found another Plaxico Burress, a tall, rangy receiver who finally could give the Jets a red-zone threat. There were even comparisons within the organization to another Georgia Tech receiver, Lions All-Pro Calvin Johnson. Ryan doubted that from the start, conceding in an interview during Hill's first camp that he wasn't on board with the pick.

For one September afternoon, Hill flashed all that promise the Jets' scouts had seen in him. In his NFL debut, he made five receptions, including two touchdowns, against the Bills. But it proved to be only a tease; in his next 22 games, he had only two touchdown catches. Meanwhile, the Bears' Alshon Jeffery, drafted two spots below Hill, has blossomed into a star, coming off a season in which he caught 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven TDs.

Hill, who had overcome lingering knee problems, didn't do much to distinguish himself this summer (two catches, 29 yards). That means he's likely to be left off the roster when the Jets make their final cuts Saturday. And if his numbers don't tell you that Hill's tenure with the team is just about over, Ryan's tepid endorsement of his preseason are just as good an indicator.

"I don't want to say he's been outstanding,'' Ryan said Tuesday, "but it's been pretty good.''

Sorry, that's not how a coach talks about someone he plans on keeping. Especially one whose praise of most players is often over the top.

No, this was not a good day for Hill. It began with an ESPN report that indicated the Jets had tried to shop him; Ryan said it was the first he'd heard of any trade talks. Practice wasn't much better. Hill, who battled a virus recently, came back to work but threw up twice. He did complete practice, although he was unavailable for comment during the media locker-room period.

Ryan had a more promising assessment of receiver Greg Salas, who played eight games with the Jets last season and has had a solid camp. It helps that Salas is a contributor on special teams.

"[Salas] is probably in a pretty good situation now,'' Ryan said.

Too bad about Hill. All that speed and potential never amounted to enough, and this year there was more inconsistency during training camp practices and games. There are no more allies in the front office now that John Idzik has replaced Tannenbaum, and Hill never had Ryan's support.

Teams don't like to give up on second-round picks after only two years, especially after trading up to get them, but you can't keep waiting on players. Especially if they haven't provided evidence they're ready to take the next step.

If Hill is going to make it in this league, it looks as if he'll have to do it somewhere else.

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