Stephen Hill has had his shares of highs and lows this preseason. But despite the rookie’s recent case of the dropsies, Rex Ryan remains high on the rookie wide receiver.
“I think Stephen’s done well,” the Jets coach said. “I think he’s playing so much – and on the practice field, he’s getting a ton of reps, which is great for a rookie. You want them to get those reps. But I think he’s picking up the offense well. I think he’s done a lot of really good things. And then there’s some things where we think he can improve in. …I think this guy’s really going to be a tremendous player for us. We really believe that. Obviously, we’d like that to be sooner than later. But he did some good things: he caught five balls (for 68 yards against the Panthers) and I think that’s encouraging.”
Hill had the team’s longest reception on Sunday night, catching a 32-yard pass from Mark Sanchez in the second quarter to move the Jets from the 50-yard line all the way to Carolina’s 18. But the rookie wideout also aided the Panthers’ first touchdown of the night when a Sanchez pass ricocheted off his back forearm and into the hands of Carolina cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
“The one for the interception – ugh. That was a killer. That was an absolute killer,”n said Ryan. “But we just got to be consistent, watch the ball in. He certainly has the skill to be a fine receiver. It’s just a matter of really focusing in, catching that ball first, then we’ll let him use his explosive speed.”
Ryan also downplayed any concerns about Quinton Coples’ preparation and readiness for the NFL.
Despite the first-round pick’s seemingly stellar performance Sunday night, the coach was miffed about the rookie’s “woe is me” attitude.
“I wasn’t as happy this game as I was previously,” Ryan said after his team’s 17-12 loss. “I thought he got winded a little bit. He kind of had a woe-with-me when we took out the starters. “Hey look, you’re still a rookie, you have to play the whole game and then some. They ran the ball on us with our second group in there and I never like to see that."
But on Tuesday, the coach said he had no concerns about Coples.
“No, absolutely not,” Ryan said about the 16th overall pick, who was dogged by questions about his motor during this year’s draft. “I just gave a very honest (assessment) on him. I just saw him kind of get that puppy dog look or whatever.
“I also saw, the puppy dog barks a lot. He’s got some bite to him. …The guy’s a tremendous player, a tremendous athlete. It’s just that, he’s got to understand he’s a rookie. He’s going to play, he’s going to play against Philly and that’s just the way it is.”
Ryan recalled his father, Buddy, having a similar situation with William “Refrigerator” Perry, who was a rookie in 1985. Perry, a former defensive lineman, went onto win a Super Bowl with Buddy Ryan and the Chicago Bears.
“He never wanted William Perry to be a rookie that first game of the year, so he played him every snap. Now, it might have had something to do with his weight,” Ryan joked, before adding that the stout Perry was 310 pounds or less while playing for his father. “…As a rookie, you can’t buy experience. So we have this opportunity, let’s get (Coples) some playing time. And that’s what we’re going to be.”
Coples’ pass rush skills have been on display this preseason. The rookie defensive end had a sack in each of the Jets’ three preseason games, totaling a combined loss of 17 yards. Asked about Coples’ run defense, Ryan offered nothing but praise.
“I think he’s doing tremendous against the run,” the Jets coach said of Coples, who also has nine tackles, two forced fumbles, two quarterback hits and one pass defensed this preseason. “He’s made a lot of plays, missed a tackle the other day in the backfield, but he’s an athlete. He can get off blocks. …He’s a hard guy to block because he is so athletic, he’s strong. He’s strong as an ox. He’s kind of like (Muhammad Wilkerson), where Mo can do both, rush the passer and play the run. I think Quinton’s the same way.”