Stephen Hill trying to reach new heights

August, 1, 2014
8/01/14
3:30
PM ET
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Stephen Hill is growing before our eyes. No, really, he is.

The New York Jets' third-year wide receiver said he grew close to an inch in the offseason, making him 6-foot-5. Actually, he may have grown more than an inch over the past couple of years, considering his official scouting combine height in 2012 was 6-foot-3 3/4.

Now comes the hard part: Raising his game to a new height.

Coming off two disappointing seasons, Hill is approaching training camp with a greater sense of urgency. As he said Friday after another strong practice, "Every day feels like it's my last day. That's how I have to play. Nothing is guaranteed in this league."

Hill is a perennial tease, tantalizing the coaches in training camp with his raw physical skills. Then comes the regular season, which means a big game against the Buffalo Bills (the only team he dominates), followed by a disappearing act and an injury -- or vice versa. He has only 45 catches and four touchdowns in two seasons. He has five dropped passes in 100 targets, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- not the kind of ratio that makes you look good.

The organization is running out of patience, but it remains intrigued by Hill's potential -- that incredible size and his terrific speed. He wasn't a John Idzik draft pick, so there are no guarantees, but it would be an upset if he doesn't make the team. But that's not the issue; the question is, can he finally fulfill his potential?

He was fantastic Friday, burning cornerback Dee Milliner for two touchdowns, including a 60-yard strike from Geno Smith on a "go" route. Rex Ryan was restrained in his praise of Hill, probably because he has seen this act before: A great training camp and ... pffft! He fades away.

Hill credited his fast start with being more comfortable in Marty Mornhinweg's offense.

"It's that confidence that's building under his offense for the second year," Hill said.

Mornhinweg said Hill has been "outstanding" in camp. If he can sustain it in the regular season, it would take the Jets' offense to a different level. It would take pressure off Eric Decker, forcing defenses to respect both sides of the field. It would be huge for the Jets.

"It can be really good, especially when everybody is on their 'A' game," Hill said of the offense. "It's a team effort. If one guy goes down, sometimes it can mess up the whole thing. Making sure everyone is on their deal, and making sure I'm on mine, we'll be unstoppable."

He should look in the mirror. It starts with him.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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