BGA: Receivers – Hill Streak Blues

With Jeff Cumberland, Kellen Winslow and Santonio Holmes (the three of whom comprise over 35% of the Jets’ passing offense so far this year, in terms of yardage) returning to the fold, the Jets had almost a full compliment of receivers, but still couldn’t get anything going in the passing game.

The big story is probably Stephen Hill, who once again had no catches. Over the last seven and a half games, Hill has caught just 10 of 28 passes, with none of them going for over 20 yards. His production has completely dried up.

During the game, the announcers made several references to the fact that the Bills’ emerging possession receiver Chris Hogan is nicknamed “7-eleven” because he’s always open. Cute. Perhaps we should call Hill “Chick-fil-A” because he’s never open on Sundays.

What if that’s not entirely fair, though?

Let’s look in detail at his day. Hill actually wasn’t targeted at all in the first half, other than right at the end of the second quarter when the Jets were already 20-0 down. It was apparent they tried to make a concerted effort to get him involved from then on, as they looked for him nine times, but came up completely empty. Why though?

Here’s his first target late in the first half. You didn’t get a great look at this but hopefully you can see that the ball is on its way, but the throw is obviously late because instead of arriving as he gets slight separation from his man, this gives the defender a chance to close. The throw was inaccurate anyway, sailing high and wide.

On this play, Hill has stopped his route, but the ball is only just being thrown. By the time it gets there, the defender can close and again the accuracy is poor with the ball over Hill’s head.

This is more of a decision making issue from Smith. Hill initially ran a square-in, but then broke for the corner. Clearly he has a step here with Leodis McKelvin scrambling to recover. The first option on this play was a pick play dump-off to Holmes in the left flat, but Holmes slipped. With Plan A out of the window, Smith failed to adjust. He actually had Greg Salas open over the middle for an easy touchdown as well, but instead rolled right and was looking at Hill, but then just at the moment when he should have led Hill to the back of the end zone with a pass out of McKelvin’s reach, he instead looked back to the inside for some reason and then ran out of time and threw it away over Hill’s head. McKelvin was grabbing at Hill as he made an effort to recover and any throw in that direction would have at the very least drawn a penalty 99 times out of 100.

Another play like the one above where Smith’s throw is a little late and wide of the target. In Smith’s defense, this was a low snap, which affected the timing.

On the next one, he wasn’t open. However, as the image clearly shows, McKelvin pulls down on Hill’s right shoulder, making contact before the ball has arrived. Hill got his hands to the ball and PFF actually counted this as a drop, but it should have been pass interference.

This time, he got the step on the defender and might have been able to catch up to Smith’s throw if the defender doesn’t pull back on his arm, as shown. There was a penalty on this play anyway, so the Jets still got the first down, but this wasn’t called.

Just like the others, this is again (a) too late and (b) overthrown.

Can’t blame Smith for this one, as Matt Simms makes the throw and doesn’t get enough on it, as it flutters through the air and McKelvin drops an easy interception. You can see that Hill has at least two steps on his man at the back of the end zone but Simms fails to put enough juice on it to get it in the window between three players, including McKelvin who you can just see entering the picture on the far right.

Finally, he’s wide open for what should be an easy touchdown at the back of the end zone. Simms has to do a better job there of anticipating and finding a clean passing lane. Marcell Dareus knocked the pass down, but Simms would also have been wary of Kiko Alonso sitting in the middle of the field.

So, the assumption on Hill seems to be that he’s not getting open, but on this evidence a better timed or more accurate throw probably would have led to a successful completion on most of these plays. This doesn’t excuse Hill entirely — he simply has to find a way to get himself involved in the offense, whether that’s by sharpening up his routes even more, paying more attention to detail, being more physical or catching the ball in traffic. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to run a screen or end around to get the ball in his hands too. I’ll give him credit for one more play though, he beat his man off the line with a clean release and then drew the safety over to the middle of the field to create the room for Smith’s long completion to Santonio Holmes in the third quarter.

I wonder how many of those nine passes David Garrard would have been able to complete…

Holmes had two big catches, but failed to make a clean grab on a low diving attempt that was initially ruled a catch and then overturned. He also appeared to miss his block on a screen pass, which meant that the player he was supposed to block (Aaron Williams) jumped the route and almost picked it off. He made two great plays and the Jets needed that, but they need more consistency than big plays from Holmes right now, especially with Jeremy Kerley out.

Greg Salas continues to show promise with a spectacular diving catch for 25 yards to get Matt Simms going. He had one other tough catch over the middle earlier in the game. David Nelson on the other hand had just one catch, short of a first down, but did draw a penalty. Josh Cribbs was in for four plays and ran the ball a couple of times.

At tight end, Kellen Winslow’s return saw him surprisingly limited to just eight snaps, although he did have a nice catch over the middle. Jeff Cumberland had three catches including a touchdown, but only one of those catches didn’t come in garbage time. He was also a bit rusty as a blocker, making a couple of mistakes.

Zach Sudfeld, who had been starting, had just three snaps with Winslow and Cumberland back. Konrad Reuland didn’t get any reps.

Up next…onto the defense, where sometimes Muhammad Wilkerson is just too good.