While many label the Jets-Patriots matchup as a rivalry, rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill isn’t approaching it that way.
“I’m just taking it as a regular game,” Hill said this afternoon after practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “Not doing too much, just going out there and treating it as that next game you’re trying to take to the next level. Just making plays, and going out there to help out the team, so we can get a W.”
Hill, who earlier this season missed two games sidelined with a hamstring injury, made his return to the lineup Sunday for the Jets’ 35-9 win over Indianapolis. No. 84 looked sharp in his first game back as he caught three passes for 23 yards and recorded the third touchdown of his career.
“It was good,” he said. “Not playing for two weeks, I was hurting. So I definitely had to come back as strong as I could to make plays.”
The 6’4″, 215-pounder said he feels no additional pressure heading into Sunday’s AFC East showdown. He said the Jets veterans have spoken with him some about the game but didn’t tell him anything noteworthy.
“They were just like, ‘It’s a big week, divisional week,’ ” Hill said. “That’s it. That’s how they treat it.”
Hill got to experience a special rivalry during his college days at Georgia Tech. Whenever GT would prepare to face Georgia there was always extra buzz and chatter being spread. Hill said the anticipation this week has been almost the same as a Georgia Tech-Georgia matchup.
“I like rivalry games,” he said. “It definitely brings a lot of excitement, of course, to the game. I’m just ready to take this on, especially being now in the NFL. It’s even bigger now.”
Many Jets players have said the level of focus has increased this week in practice. Hill totally agrees. Not only has he been studying the Patriots during film sessions at the Jets’ facility, but he also saved footage of them onto his iPad.
“I feel like this was my best week since I’ve been here,” Hill said. “I’ve been very dialed in, into the playbook and things like that. So I’ve just been reading as much as I can, just to get a feel of what they’re going to throw at us on Sunday.”
There are always challenges on the road, yet Hill said he enjoys the atmosphere of being away from home. A win in Foxboro and the Jets would return home with more enjoyment than they could imagine.
“It would do a lot,” Hill said. “We would be at the top of the division. That’d be great and definitely give us a boost of confidence.”
Coples on Jets-Pats “Logistics”
As a kid, Quinton Coples said he hardly ever watched the Patriots, the opponents the Jets will be facing Sunday afternoon.
“I was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan,” the Jets’ first-round draft selection said. “I watched them against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but no, growing up that wasn’t one of my teams at all.”
Coples will be participating in his seventh game as a pro. So far, there have been ups and down.
The former North Carolina Tar Heel has been informed of the yearly hype surrounding Patriots week. However, he couldn’t decide if Sunday will be the biggest game he’s played in his football career.
“I don’t know,” Coples said. “That’s hard to debate as far as whether it will be my biggest game. But I take every game seriously and I’m looking forward to getting back there and getting after it in this great rivalry.”
Without question, Coples will enter the game with plenty of confidence. Against the Colts he recorded the first two sacks of his NFL career. While the Patriots have the league’s top offense, No. 98 doesn’t seem fazed when analyzing the matchup.
“I think every game is every game,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to take care of it and make sure you get a win. I’m not too big on turning it up a level. I’m trying to turn it up every game. A rivalry game is definitely a lot more aggressive and a lot more grimy. There’s no telling what could happen. But at the end of the day, it’s fun.”
Coples hasn’t heard anything about New England’s fan base but expects them to be loud and ready, especially considering the Pats are returning home off their heartbreaking 24-23 loss at Seattle.
Like with any rivalry, there probably will be plenty of trash-talking going on throughout this one.
“Since this is going to be my first one, I can’t really speak on it,” Coples said. “I can just go out there and make sure I take care of my job. I think after this first one, I’ll understand the logistics of how crazy this game is.”
Friday Injury Reports
Ryan pegs 10 of his 17 injured players as probable for the Patriots, including TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) and Hill (hamstring), who both strung together two full-go practices for the first time in weeks. Also probable are LBs Bart Scott (toe) and Bryan Thomas (hamstring), who were limited in practice all week.
As for the backup RB situation, the Jets coach didn’t elaborate but is letting the designations speak for themselves. RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle) didn’t participate in practice all week but is listed as questionable for the game, while RB Bilal Powell (shoulder) was also a three-time DNP and is doubtful for the Patriots.
Other Jets doubtfuls: DTs Sione Po‘uha (back) and Kenrick Ellis (knee). Questionables besides McKnight: C Nick Mangold (ankle), who was limited at today’s practice after not going Wednesday and Thursday, and WR Clyde Gates (shoulder).
The Patriots have declared starting S Steve Gregory (hip), rookie RB Brandon Bolden (knee) and LB Tracy White (foot) out for the game. Rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner are listed as the backup safeties behind Gregory and Patrick Chung.
Bill Belichick has also listed 11 players, all of whom were limited at today’s practice, as questionable for the Jets. Seven are or have been starters: Chung (shoulder), TEs Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), LB Dont’a Hightower (hamstring), LG Logan Mankins (calf/hip), RT Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee) and WR Wes Welker (ankle).
Tags: Bart Scott, Bilal Powell, Bryan Thomas, joe McKnight, New England Patriots, Nick Mangold, Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill
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