Updated, 6:15 p.m. ET
It’s too early to declare Stephen Hill a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, but in his NFL debut on Sunday the Jets’ first-year man gave some hints that he may already be beyond rookiedom.
Take Hill’s response today to a question about the Steelers’ press coverage, which may be a little more physical than the Bills’ presence at the line of scrimmage.
“Oh, definitely, you look forward to all types of coverages,” Hill said. “When somebody’s coming up to you, you can get a little physical with them, see where their head is. I’m definitely looking forward to that when they come up in press.”
That’s more than youthful yammering. Watch Hill’s first catch as a Jet, the third play of the game. He drove fellow rookie Stephon Gilmore off with a forceful forearm off the line, which gave him the separation he needed to latch onto Mark Sanchez’s short throw without distraction for the first of his five receptions and the first of his three third-down conversions. It won’t always be that easy, perhaps a lot harder Sunday against Pitt corners Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis. Still, his physicality was impressive.
Then there’s his response to his new-found fame in the big city. I mentioned another name he’d probably never heard of today, the name of Al Dorow. Why do Dorow and Hill belong in the same sentence? Because until Hill had his two touchdown catches vs. the Bills, only one player in franchise history had ever scored two TDs of any kind in his Jets/Titans debut regardless of position and experience. That was Dorow, who ran for the first two TDs in franchise history in the Titans’ inaugural game in 1960.
So Hill accomplished something that is roughly a once-in-52-years occurrence.
He smiled politely as I unfolded that blast from the past, even repeated a little of what he’d heard about the Jets’ migration from the AFL to the AFC in 1970. But he declined to be dazzled by his own brilliance.
“This is a week that I’m trying to make more a stride with all of my physical abilities, putting more stuff into my game,” he said. “Now I’m playing veteran veterans, ninth-year-type guys. [Taylor’s in his 10th year.] Even going against Cromartie and Revis, they’re still young guys. I’m going against some old heads now. I’m just trying to play my part and do whatever Coach asks me to do.”
It’s early. But the signs from Hill are all pointing up.
Santonio Holmes, who nearly had another one of his impossible touchdown catches on Sunday to go with Super Bowl XLIII and the 2010 AFC Divisional win at New England, explained the thought process he goes through while making such boundary plays.
“I honestly didn’t think twice that my hand touched the ground before my feet did,” he said of his second-quarter near-miss. “My main focus was if I could get this back foot down before I hit the ground, then I would get in.
“It’s all according to working on your mechanics. Most people probably wouldn’t have thought twice to get a back foot down, but I know that’s where all the money is made, by getting two feet down in the back of the end zone. That’s been my focus since joining the NFL.”
How does one exactly practice that kind of impossible skill?
“I think you just travel it through your mind,” he said. “Every day we work on sideline catches and just dragging the toe. It becomes a second-nature thing, where once you’re in the back of the end zone, the only thing that matters is the catch and two feet touching down. You have to know your boundaries. You have to use your peripheral vision to know when you’re leaving you’re feet, how much ground you have, where the sideline is. All those things really factor into playing wide receiver.”
Reporter John Holt will have more on Darrelle Revis, who spoke with reporters after this afternoon’s practice, Head coach Rex Ryan’s update on No. 24’s mild concussion wasn’t much different today than Wednesday: “His status remains the same. He’s been cleared to resume physical activity,” Rex said, adding that Revis will probably not be a gametime decision. “I think you wouldn’t put him on a plane if the guy had a concussion. So I think by Saturday [before the Jets leave for Pittsburgh] we would have an answer.”
Ryan also said he thinks another Game 1 Jets star, Jeremy Kerley (low back), will be available for the Steelers. “I’ve been wrong in the past,” Rex said, “but I think he’ll be ready to play.”
Officially, Kerley and FB John Conner (knee) stepped up from DNP to being limited in team drills today, while S LaRon Landry (heel), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and CB Isaiah Trufant (ankle) all didn’t participate today after some team activities Wednesday, while Bryan Thomas (hamstring) remained sidelined.
Pittsburgh’s health improved with RB Jonathan Dwyer (foot) joining RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee) as practicing full in the Steelers’ team drills. But coach Mike Tomlin also added T Max Starks to his I-list as not participating today due to illness.
Landry’s crushing hits inspired a question for Ryan about if he likes to develop a “fear factor” on his defenses. “I always look at it this way,” the coach said. “I always want to have as many guys on my team that you wouldn’t want your kid playing against.’
One more note on the win over the Bills: The Jets’ first three touchdowns of the game came in a span of 8:22 on the gameclock. That’s the fastest they’ve scored three TDs in a season opener since the 1970 merger. The previous fastest was 8:34, which they achieved in 1972 en route to their 41-24 win over the Bills at War Memorial Stadium.
Catch Up with Chrebet
Speaking of celebrated Jets wide receivers, Wayne Chrebet will be appearing at a public signing on Saturday. No. 80 will be at The Steiner Sports Store at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y., from 12:30-2 p.m.
Tags: Al Dorow, Buffalo Bills, Darrelle Revis, Ike Taylor, New York Titans, PIttsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan, Stephen Hill, Stephon Gilmore
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