Last Sunday’s fourth-quarter, third-down drop is the type of play that Stephen Hill is going to have to forget.
It was 3rd-and-4 at the Patriots’ 25-yard line when quarterback Mark Sanchez fired a perfect pass toward Hill, who was wide open on the play, but inexplicably dropped the ball. A completion almost surely would have brought the ball inside the 10-yard line and given the Jets a shot at a touchdown.
Instead, the Jets would end up tying the game with a field goal.
Had Hill made the catch, the game could have ended up as a win for the Jets and given a very different taste to this Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. He was in shock in the moments after the drop.
“How did I just turn and not catch that ball? I can do it, it just happened when I was in that moment. I was getting ready to get it and go,” Hill told Metro. “It just happened. No one has blamed me. Everyone was like, ‘We left a lot of plays out there on that field.’ Everyone has been trying to lift me up.”
Hill was plagued by drops in training camp as he adjusted to a new pass-happy offense compared to the one he played in at Georgia Tech. With the Yellow Jackets’ option offense, passing was at a premium. The offense completed an average of just six passes per game.
For the sake of comparison, Sanchez’s worst game this season came in Week 2 at Pittsburgh when he completed just 10 of 27 passes. In other words, Hill is seeing a lot more of the ball through seven games this year than he did all of last season. Moments like Sunday’s drop show how much he still has to learn.
He started the season strong, with five catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 1 win over the Bills. Then in the next two games, Hill failed to register a catch and was hampered by a hamstring injury that held him out for Week 4 and Week 5. Since then he’s rebounded with seven receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks.
“Getting the playbook, understanding the playbook, hasn’t been that bad,” Hill said. “It’s just been a matter of putting it all together. It’s exciting though, to see the ball this much and to be in an offense where you’re tested like this.”
He has 12 receptions and three touchdowns in five games but he said the hamstring injury was a bit of a blessing in disguise.
“That’s when I really paid attention. I guess looking from our offense and the other guys from different teams like an Andre Johnson or Randy Moss and watching them and seeing how they play. Not trying to take anything from them but just being a rookie and seeing and watching, there was more time in the film room for me to watch and learn,” Hill said. “Just been paying a lot of attention to my body, how my body is. I used to go out there and play but I need to dial into myself. I see it coming together and picking up fast. I’m trying not to show the same thing over and over; I was just trying at first to outrun everybody, but you can’t do that all the time. It’s not just about speed, it’s about details.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.