Updated, 10:04 p.m. ET
Stephen Hill’s first training camp visit to Revis Island went swimmingly.
Hill, the second-round WR from Georgia Tech, got past Darrelle Revis for a Mark Sanchez deep ball early in today’s first practice of training camp at SUNY Cortland. He got the full Revis treatment — tight trailing coverage, then, with the ball in the air, a sublte, timely forearm to the side. As the two started to tumble, No. 24 batted the ball away, or it so it seemed. But somehow, No. 84 latched onto the gyrating leather and cradled it as they hit the grass together for, oh, a 40-yard play.
“Basically I saw the way he was playing me and I just tried to box him out to make the catch as much as I could,” Hill said. “Oh, yeah, definitely it was exciting. That was my first play of training camp.”
And did the top corner in the game say anything to the raw but riveting rookie?
“Yeah, he said, ‘Good catch. Next time you ain’t going to get it,’ ” Hill said.
Hill may not make a circus catch over Revis again, but it seems possible he could put together a parade of catches for a rookie highlight video.
“Young, fast,” head coach Rex Ryan captured Hill in two words, then offered up a few more for emphasis. “The most impressive thing today, there was the catch over Revis even though Revis had great coverage. But on a running play, I saw a block and I saw a corner go down.”
That, too, was Hill on Revis, although the rookie admitted he gave the corner a shove on the play when Revis had already lost his balance.
“It was Revis? All right,” Rex said with a smile. “I guess with that Georgia Tech background, Hill probably played with a full-cage facemask. He’s impressive, and you know how I felt. We draft a wide receiver in the second round and we trade up to get him? Oh, you’re kidding me. … Really, he’s been impressive.”
Sanchez was in full agreement.
“It was awesome, and right out of the gate, too,” the QB said. “Reeve made a good play to tip it and Stephen stayed with it. It was another encouraging play and something fun, something all of us could rally around. It was big for Stephen. He didn’t show it much, but I know he was nervous. For a first day, for a first-timer like that, that’s big and it gives him a lot of confidence. You could tell that weight was kind of lifted off his shoulders.”
Another observer, a former Jets first-round wideout who famously wore No. 19, also liked what he saw at today’s practice.
“I think it’ll be a pretty good transition for Stephen from college to the pros,” said Keyshawn Johnson, on his first visit to Cortland as a member of the ESPN contingent. “At least we do know he’ll block because this is a running-style offense. We know the physical attributes are there for him. But it’s going to take time. For rookie receivers it takes a minute to learn the game.”
A New York minute in some cases. And Hill said he’s learning the game from a few folks wearing the green and white.
“I can still see myself as a little raw,” he said, “but Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes, they’re staying in my ear a lot. Even [Antonio] Cromartie and Revis are helping me out with little things they’re seeing.”
Almost as an afterthought, Hill was asked about the hamstring injury from early June that sidelined him for the full-squad minicamp. He said John Mellody and his training staff are keeping an eye him so as to have him ready to go for the Sept. 9 opener vs. the Bills. But from today’s work, Hill seems to have no beef with his hammy.
“Now I’m back,” he said, “and I’m ready to make plays.” Even a play (or two?) on the Island.
Johnson had an impromptu performance today that was similar off the field to his on-field roles in the 1998 AFC Divisional Round win over Jacksonville when he had a catch for one touchdown, ran for another, recovered a Jaguars fumble to set up his TD run, and intercepted a Hail Mary pass (thrown by Mark Brunell) as a DB at the end of the 34-24 triumph.
Today Key was an ESPN talent commenting on practice with Sal Paolantonio, a Los Angeleno giving fellow Southern Californian Sanchez a bro hug, a gray eminence trading confidences with fellow wideouts Holmes and Hill, and the proud owner of 23 Panera Bread franchises in the L.A. and central California regions. He also admitted to being a first-time Ryan admirer.
“Rex — I love him. This is the first time I’ve really met him. Man, I like him a lot,” Johnson said. “He’s tough. He’s a defensive coach. He kind of knows he has to put up or shut up. And he’s the coolest looking head coach in the NFL. He’s lost weight, he looks healthy, he has cool shoes and a tat on his calf.”
Keyshawn also gives a conditional thumbs-up to the Sanchez-Tim Tebow experiment assembled by Ryan, Mike Tannenbaum and Tony Sparano.
“They can’t split the reps, and I think they know that,” he said. “If you give one guy 15 plays because the offense has started out of rhythm or you want a change of pace, that’s OK. But if it’s a 50-50 split, they won’t win.”
And his advice to Jets fans if Sanchez hits a skid?
“I would have to say to the fans, sit patient,” he said. “There are other players on the team. This quarterback [Sanchez] has shown he can throw the football and win games at times, although there have been some issues. But I don’t know that a two-game skid warrants a new starter.”
Ryan said he liked a few elements of today’s opening session. For one, even though the players were in shells, not full pads, “The 9-on-7 mentality, I can’t wait to see that drill every day. On defense we have the kind of mentality that we can stop anybody from running the football. And on offense we have the exact opposite mentality, that we can run the ball on anybody. It’s an interesting mindset, and when they put the pads on, that’s one you want to watch for sure.”
Rex also liked today’s tempo of practice, which was so quick and efficient that in some periods the Jets got in almost twice as many plays as they had scripted, which is a big help to the third units, which got most of those extra snaps. And with that Sparano-inspired tempo, the coach said, “We’re a team that will be in shape.”
Ryan confirmed the LaRon Landry pitch count after the veteran safety, taken off the A-PUP list Thursday, was dressed but mostly stretching and watching today’s practice from behind the secondary. “We’re going to have him go full-speed every third practice. We may alter that as we go. He’s a full-speed guy. You don’t want him to be reckless. You want to make sure you get him to opening day to play Buffalo. That said, he’s also got to make up some ground, learn the defense, compete with his teammates.”
CB Donnie Fletcher had a nice leaping breakup of a Greg McElroy deep ball for TE Dedrick Epps. … RB Bilal Powell had a nice series with several artful interior runs and receptions. … Revis got Sanchez back in 7-on-7’s with a sideline pick. … Tebow has a penchant for wanting to string out seemingly lost plays and then save them with a big downfield throw, not just via an improvised run.
Punter T.J. Conley showed the fruits of his offseason of strength and practice work by rocking a 63-yarder, 4.3 hangtime, out of bounds at the 7, followed immediately by a 65-yarder, 4.8 hang, OB at the 5. … To end practice, K Josh Brown missed from 42 and 44 yards, Nick Folk hit from 46 and 48, then Brown concluded by rocking through 50- and 52-yard field goals.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Darrelle Revis, Josh Brown, Keyshawn Johnson, Nick Folk, Rex Ryan, Stephen Hill, T.J. Conley, Tim Tebow, Tony Sparano
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