Welcome to the first annual TJB Writers Challenge! Not a lot ever happens in July until training camp, so with about a month until the start of camp, once a day each day between now and then, I will be taking tweets from readers like you and will write about the topic of your choosing. If you’d like to get me to write about something, just @Brian_Bassett on Twitter and I’ll do my best to get to as many requests this month as possible!
— Jesse DeBear (@Jesse_DeBear) July 3, 2012
Two years ago, the Jets had Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes – a dynamic duo with the two players on the field. Holmes’s precise route-running and ability to get open made him deadly in the middle of the field where Mark Sanchez seems to make some of his best throws. Edwards size, speed and physical style of play made him a natural deep target for Sanchez, and it made opponents play “pick your poison” between the two options along with Dustin Keller. Either one safety would help to double one receiver and give Sanchez a better chance with the other, or even when both safeties were employed in coverage help, it would allow Keller a mismatch on a slot corner or linebacker.
Once Braylon left New York last year, the Jets re-booted their offense with Plaxico Burress … and while it worked in fits and starts, on the whole Plaxico wasn’t quick enough to be able to command the doubles that Edwards once did – which then in turn allowed opponents to focus their attention on Holmes. Holmes is a good receiver, but who last year showed that he’ll be more comfortable in a role where he has more help in diverting attention from him.
Enter Stephen Hill, a little-known receiver playing in a triple option offense in the ACC, who during the 2011 NCAA season averaging well over 30 yards a catch. . After his times and measurments at the Combine, Hill seemed like a quintessential metrics player who would benefit greatly from his 40 yard dash time.
Still, his highlights are impressive:
You can read the analysis on him on NFL.com for more. Unflatteringly, he’s been compared to Lee Evans, Donte Stallworth. Flatteringly, he’s been compared to Randy Moss and Calvin Johnson. It’s fair to say that rather than go for a “safe” pick at receiver, the Jets made a play that could end spectacularly badly, or spectacularly well.
At 6’4″, with a 39 inch vert, Hill has all the physical attributes to be great a great receiver, but the concerns around him is to whether he’s actually a football player or track star will follow him in the pros until he proves one way or the other.
For the Jets though, while Hill will most likely jump into the WR2 starting role in 2012, he might not need to be an 80 catch guy any time soon and he could still have a major impact on this offense — let us explain.
1) Focus on the Run — Just like it was in college for Hill, the Jets will feature a run-first offense and that will diminish the necessity of him
2) Solid Vets — Further diminishing his need for an immediate huge season is the team’s other receiving options. Having Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes (and to a lesser extent even Jeremy Kerley) already in place will allow Hill the time to transition into his role as a complementary player first, then if possible, more down the road.
3) Lack of Experience — Draft pundits decried Hill’s ability to run a route tree well or even run it at all, relegating Hill to go-routes early in his career. ”Chunk plays” anyone? For the Jets, all Hill needs to do in his first year is keep defenses honest by hooking up with Sanchez on some big plays in opportune circumstances. This will then help by providing some over-the-top help in coverage to pull attention away from Santonio.
4) Numbers — It’s more important that Hill divert attention from Tone, but some of it will come down to the stats. If Hill can catch just 40 passes all season — about 3-4 receptions a game — and based on his skill-set (go-routes) could average close to 17 yards a catch, that would more than make up for Plaxico’s absence (Plax’s 612 yards in 2011, to Hill’s projected 680) while pulling more coverage help from Tone.