Santonio Holmes simply shook his head when asked to summarize Stephen Hill’s progress to this point.
“Stephen, Stephen, Stephen,” the Jets receiver said with a smile. “Coming from Georgia Tech it was very difficult for him as a player to learn how to run routes, to be a 6’3-6’4 receiver playing on an option team, to being a complete wide receiver. It takes a lot of progress.
“And those things in the classroom are coming along and all we can do is continue talking to each other and building him up and continue to build him as if he’s the next “Megatron” (Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who also attended Georgia Tech). (Hill) saw this guy play and he saw the progress that he’d made throughout his career and that was one of the things that I spent time talking to him about yesterday: how can we build Stephen Hill into being that complete guy? And it comes with a lot of learning and a lot of sacrifice.”
Hill -- who currently is nursing a knee injury -- has all the physical talent in the world. But questions about his focus arose last year when he displayed a case of the dropsies during OTAs, training camp – and worse – the regular season.
His biggest drop, to date, came in Foxboro against the Patriots back in October. The then-rookie dropped a wide-open pass from Mark Sanchez on third-and-4 from New England’s 25 with just 2:15 remaining in the fourth. Had Hill caught the ball, he would have extended the Jets’ promising drive. Instead, Rex Ryan & Co. went on to lose 29-26 in overtime.
And those lapses in concentration crept up during Wednesday’s mandatory minicamp practice. To be fair, Hill wasn’t the only receiver to take his eye off the ball.
And that’s a trend Ryan is hoping to nip in the bud.
The Jets coach was visibly irritated Wednesday when discussing the frequent drops during Day 1 of mandatory minicamp.
“You’re an NFL player. Catch the football,” he said. “You’re paid to catch the football. …(On Tuesday), I was surprised when we caught the ball.”
Sanchez, however, was careful not to throw his receivers under the bus.
“When it’s a bad ball, it’s a bad ball and move on,” he said. “When it’s a bad ball and you can make the catch, make the catch. And that’s it. Those guys know. Look, we have to finish plays. We just have to finish plays and those guys know that. They’re good enough to know that. They’re great players and just like when we miss a bunch of throws in a day, it can’t happen. You’re an NFL quarterback. You can’t do that.
"So, we’ll just keep working, keep getting better and have a heck of a day tomorrow. But I’m proud of the way they’re playing and running their routes. We just have to finish.”