Stephen Hill showed a remarkable skill with some impressive namedropping during his first news conference as a Jet at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
“Yeah, definitely Calvin Johnson,” Hill, the Georgia Tech wideout, told reporters at midday today when asked if he agreed with VP of college scouting Joey Clinkscales’ likening of Hill to “Megatron.” the Madden NFL ’13 cover dude. “And if I can say a little old school, I’d say Jerry Rice.”
If you look at one set of Hill’s Yellow Jackets numbers, his receptions, you’d say, well, good luck with that. In Tech’s triple-option offense he totaled only 49 career receptions, an average of 16.3 per season, 1.3 per game.
But look at another set and you might say, why not? Hill had nine touchdown receptions in his college career, each of which went for an average of 55.2 yards per catch. As a junior last year, he had five TDs for a 64.0 average per catch. His 29 total catches averaged 29.3 yards per catch, leading all of college football.
That Georgia Tech offense was feast and famine for a wideout of Hill’s skills, but as he said about shifting gears from the triple option to whichever pro offense he was ticketed for, “I’ve been away from school for four months. I did a lot of transitioning, especially going down to the IMG campus, working hard six days a week. My only transition is just playing faster and playing against great guys.”
And to help him with that transition, well, Hill dropped a few more names, this time of some quarterbacks.
“I worked out with Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins,” Hill said. “And Vinny Testaverde kind of threw it to me, too.”
Yes, that Vinny T, the Jets’ own former QB who helps out some young up-and-comers at the Bradenton, Fla., complex.
“Oh, yeah, definitely Vinny can still spin that thing,” Hill told Eric Allen for newyorkjets.com. “It’s amazing to see a guy who played so many years and still moves so great. He gave me a lot of tips, on how to get in and out of breaks. And he told me to just stay in my place, go out there and be a pro.”
Hill, who just celebrated his 21st birthday the day before the draft began, has a great head start on that goal. Every player is more than the sum of his numbers, but in Hill’s case some additional numbers pop out and tell a little something more about how the 6’4″, 215-pounder from Lithonia, Ga., may adapt to North Jersey and a New York state of mind:
4.36 — That was Hill’s announced 40 time at the February combine, although he was told one watch had him at 4.28. “I’ve had that speed since I was a kid. I just keep working, working, no days off. I’m in a no-days-off period. I knew I was fast when I started running track at the age of 6,” he told reporters. To EA he agreed, “It’s good to have this type of speed. It’s a blessing to have this type of speed.”
11’1″ — That’s Hill’s broad jump distance. Sound like a long way to leap? That’s tied for the seventh-longest broad jump at the combine at all positions since 2006. I won the states in my junior year and in my senior year I came in third behind Eric Berry and Brandon Boykin. Jumping against those guys was such a boost to my confidence.” As a senior Hill set the Georgia state long jump record at 25’8¾”.
39’5″ — His announced vertical leap at the combine. That’s just a merely impressive stat, tied for fifth-highest among all positions at this year’s workouts. But wait, there’s a catch. “I really thought I had a better jump, but they had me redo it.” He said his best vertical came in high school, a 42’0″ leap. That would have been in the top 10 for verticals in the last seven combines.
84 — That’s the uniform number Hill is expected to wear as a Jet. Why 84 after he wore 5 at Georgia Tech and 25 at Miller Grove High School? “I wore 84 in high school for an All-America bowl game after my senior season. My dad, Henry Hill, wore it when he was in high school, and I had a big game wearing it. Now I’m getting to wear it again.”
Hill’s dad, mom and family came up from Georgia with him for his introduction to the area today. And he’ll be back for next weekend’s rookie minicamp here at the Jets facility, where we’ll get to see No. 84 start working on some new numbers and achievements at the next level.
Tags: Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech, Henry Hill, Jerry Rice, Stephen Hill, Vinny Testaverde
Posted in Randy Lange | 66 Comments »
In cleaning up my notebook from the Jets’ season just ended three weeks ago, I realized there was a piece that still had to be written about WR David Ball.
Well, here at newyorkjets.com, there’s no time like the present to riff on players of the possible future. And Ball, on "baggie day" the day after the season-ending OT win over Kansas City, was upbeat about what the future may hold for him in green and white.
"It’s been a pretty crazy year for me — two teams in one year, and I had an eight-week vacation there in the middle of the season," Ball said. "So for me it didn’t go as planned, but it definitely ended on the right track, making the 53-man roster. For me, that means I finally found myself in a spot where my skills are respected."
Fans may recall following the bouncing Ball. He was a big man on campus, the campus in question being the University of New Hampshire, where he broke one of Jerry Rice’s Division I-AA records with 58 career touchdown receptions and tied another with 23 100-yard receiving games. That earned him a few nicknames related to being "the white Rice."
With unspectacular size (6’0", 197) and speed, Ball’s avenue to the pros was to sign with the Bears as an undrafted free agent. That’s when he got to show his secret weapons: his hands. A couple of his preseason catches were of the eye-popping variety that landed him a couple of YouTube clips alongside his leaping downfield grab in the East-West Shrine Game.
"I like when people know who I am," Ball said, proudly but not cockily, adding of his video exposure, "It’s nice. It definitely showed that people were impressed with some of the plays I was making in the preseason.
"That last preseason game against Cleveland is what sealed the deal for me to earn the last practice squad spot with Chicago. And for a team that just came off a Super Bowl, that wasn’t looking to change much, to go there as an undrafted free agent when they don’t throw the ball, and I didn’t play special teams at that point — it was a feat for me to make that team."
The Bears eventually turned him loose, leading to his two-month hiatus before the Jets, in a frenzy of WR signings, brought him into the fold. And for anyone who wondered if the wonderful part of his game withered while he was out of work, Ball reassured them.
"My hands, they haven’t gone anywhere," he said. "I may have changed some places, but they’re still doing their job."
Ball hopes his marvelous mitts have a longer career than George Costanza did as a hand model in the classic Seinfeld episode, "The Puffy Shirt." But the wide receiver has shown that he has quickly adapted to the NFL mentality, especially regarding roster spots.
Indeed, the Jets still have Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith, Justin McCareins, Wallace Wright and Chris Davis on the roster, not to mention Chansi Stuckey, who spent the season on IR. And last week they announced the re-signing of David Clowney, Shaine Smith and Marco Thomas to reserve/future deals. This is all before the arrivals off any unrestricted free agents, draft picks and newly undrafted FAs this off-season.
But Ball isn’t deterred by the already crowded field.
"Yeah, I think it’s a good fit for me," he said of the Jets. "I really like the offense, I really like the coaching staff. Obviously, I’ve got to stay healthy. It’s a crazy game, it s a crazy business. There’s going to be a lot of new faces probably next year, so who knows what’s going to happen? But with how they do things here, it’s definitely a situation that I like."
Tags: David Ball, Jerry Rice, Kansas City
Posted in Randy Lange | 24 Comments »
Bill Callahan will meet with New York Jets reporters some time in the future, but Green & White fans almost have to feel as if they know their new assistant head coach/offense as they know some of the coaches and front office folks on the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills.
After all, the Jets went up against Callahan’s offenses seven times in a five-season span — four times when he was Oakland’s coordinator from 1999-2001 and three more when he held the Raiders’ reins as head coach in 2002-03.
And if there is subliminal satisfaction that Callahan is now on Eric Mangini’s team, it may be because the Jets didn’t fare that well in those regular-season and playoff run-ins with Callahan’s O. The Raiders rushed for 4.5 yards per carry and 146.4 per game and allowed a decent 1.7 sacks per game in those meetings, five of which were won by the Silver & Black.
Here’s a stroll down Green memory lane for that seven-pack of contests, all played at Oakland, you may recall. The stats are the Raiders’ rushing and sacks-allowed numbers (*playoff game):
|2002||Raiders, 26-20||26- 98-3.8-1||4-29|
|2003||Jets, 27-24 (OT)||52-169-3.3-1||0-0|
I remember Callahan, when he spoke with us reporters on conference calls as the Raiders head coach, to be friendly, not flowery, and focused on many of the core values that Mangini has stressed in his two full seasons at the Jets helm. Here is a smattering of Coach Cally quotes from two CCs during Oakland’s 2002 Super Bowl season and the one call the next season, when things weren’t going as well for duh Raiduhs:
Before the 2002 RS game
On WR Jerry Rice: "I just marvel at Jerry every day — he’s amazing to me. His mental strength and capacity to push through things, focus and isolate on the minute details of the game, is just impressive. It all starts in the mind and in the heart."
On Jets coach Mike Westhoff: "I have great respect for Mike. I think he’s one of the finest special teams coaches in the league. Week in, week out, he has an array of scheme and all types of different addendums to his package. He creates problems and confusion for people."
Before the 2002 PO game
On QB Chad Pennington: "I see a young man who has been consistent, who had the highest completion percentage in the league. His ability to make plays and to understand where to go with the ball has really played into his hands. It presents us a challenge. We’re going to have to create a pass rush, we’re going to get some heat on him. And we’re going to have to tighten up some coverages, not give him lanes to throw the ball into. That is an area he seems to thrive in."
On LB Eric Barton (who two years later would leave the Raiders for the Jets): "I see a growth there by Eric that has continued to allow him to continue his progression. And the biggest thing I see is that his instincts and his knowledge of the game have really taken over and helped him to a new level."
Before the 2003 RS game
On how difficult it is getting the 2-6 Raiders prepared for the Jets coming off a four-game losing streak: "I really believe when you go through a portion of losing — everyone goes through it — there is a particular syndrome you go through and part of that is losing your focus and giving in to distraction. It is important that we remain focused and do everything we can to control what we can control. That is our preparation for the Jets. So we have really isolated ourselves here this week and recommitted ourselves to this week."
Now, instead of Callahan preparing for the Jets, he’s preparing with them. And after four seasons at Nebraska, he’s recommitted himself to the NFL and to helping Mangini coach up the 2008 Jets for the most important day, week, month and year ahead, which is always the next one of each.
Tags: Bill Callahan, Chad Pennington, Eric Barton, Eric Mangini, Jerry Rice
Posted in Randy Lange | 43 Comments »
It’s fitting that the NFL is honoring six new inductees into the Hall of Fame today. On Friday, head coach Eric Mangini invited a future first-ballot Hall of Famer to speak to his team. Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest player in the history of pro football, was in Hempstead on Friday as the team got a rare cancellation of practice.
“I think it is always valuable for players to see people who were involved in their sport,” Mangini said at his news conference this afternoon. “But I also believe if you have achieved a level of excellence — in whatever sport or whatever field you have chosen — there are a lot of things you had to do right. There are consistent themes amongst those successful teams and successful people that we can learn from and reinforce what we are teaching them and seeing every day.”
The Green & White have a number of quality receiving targets, but Mangini said he tried to get Rice out at practice to run some routes. On a serious level, he hopes each of his men got some value from Rice, who amassed 1,549 receptions for 22,895 yards in his remarkable career and owns three Super Bowl rings.
“I don’t know how you could hear someone like him speak and not take something away from it because of what he’s done and who he is — the multiple Super Bowls, the multiple personal achievements,” Mangini said. “He said in 10 years he didn’t take a vacation because when he got through, he forgot about the last year and was moving on to the next year, which is what I agreed with 100 percent.”
The lights went dark after Rice’s speech for a viewing of “300,” a film made on the violent Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Mangini likes the courageous theme, but he doesn’t want any of his players throwing fisticuffs on the field. During Thursday night’s practice, tight end Joe Kowalewski and linebacker Cody Spencer exchanged blows.
“I think in training camp you have every opportunity to show how tough you are,” Mangini said. “Hitting someone with a helmet with your hand — where you can break your hand — doesn’t show anything. What it shows is you can’t control your emotions and your frustrations. You have every opportunity in the world to get out your aggressions.”
Kowalewski, who threw about five or six uppercuts in front of the officials, was flagged for his overaggressiveness. That infraction took his team out of range for a touchdown and forced a tougher field goal.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s selfish,” said the second-year head coach. “Any of those penalties are just selfish because it hurts the team and what do you get, two seconds of satisfaction out of it?”
Among those getting praise from Mangini included defensive tackles Dewayne Robertson and Sione Pouha. The Jets like D-Rob’s position flexibility, knowing that he can line up in either the 3-4 or the 4-3. The 6’1”, 310-pound Robertson isn’t a huge nose, but he has other qualities that allow him to penetrate. (And by the way, take a look at Randy’s piece on Dewayne. They had a good chat the other day and the piece is a very good read.)
“Where he really compensates for lack of mass is his first-step quickness,” Mangini said. “He is into the center so quickly that he gets the edge in terms of who has leverage and who has hand placement. That quickness eliminates or offsets any lack of mass, and he is a good-sized man.”
Another good-sized man who lines up at DT is Pouha. This is a big training camp for the 28-year-old who missed the entire 2006 season with an injury.
“He has done a lot of work in the weightroom and if you look at his body now vs. 12 months ago, you see the transition that he has made in terms of strength and body weight supervision,” Mangini said of the 6’3", 325-pounder. “Those things have helped him now. He’s a lot stronger, a lot learner. I think that has translated well on the practice field.”
We’ll have a practice report later this afternoon.
Tags: Dewayne Robertson, Eric Mangini, Jerry Rice, Joe Kowalewski, Sione Pouha
Posted in Eric Allen | 4 Comments »