New York Jets: Stephen Hill

Stephen Hill's job is at stake

June, 17, 2014
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill is on notice. After two lackluster seasons and knee issues in each year, Hill has been surrounded by draft picks and free agents this year. It’s a clear message, and Hill doesn’t even presume to be a starter anymore.

“I consider myself as getting the job done,” Hill said. “So whenever coach feels like I need to be a starter or if he feels I don’t need to be one, it’s on him.”

Asked to detail some of Hill’s positive attributes, Jets coach Rex Ryan complied, but he only went so far before becoming realistic about Hill’s future.

[+] EnlargeStephen Hill
Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY SportsStephen Hill will enter training camp with plenty of competition for a roster spot.
“He’s got more experience so I think that’s going to help, obviously,” Ryan said. “I think he feels healthy so that’s positive, but he knows there’s nothing given. Nothing’s assured with guys' roles now, so he knows the competition’s on.”

The third-year player went down to Florida to work with quarterback Geno Smith during the offseason to hone their chemistry. Hill is still getting reps with the first team as the Jets' mandatory minicamp opened today, and he’s looked good during the spring. The issue with Hill, aside from a few high-profile dropped balls, has been fluid in his knee which has restricted his movement.

Hill didn’t have surgery this offseason, but said he spent the offseason strengthening the muscles around his knees and doesn’t expect the issue to reappear. It was Hill’s left knee last year, and both knees his rookie year. In both seasons, Hill was placed on the injured reserve because of knee injuries.

“My knee actually feels better than it did last year,” Hill said. “Because last year I didn’t take a lot of OTA reps and I went all through OTAs and now minicamp, so right now I feel strictly 100 percent.”

This year the Jets have options at wide receiver, more options than they have had in the past. Eric Decker was brought over from the Broncos and Jacoby Ford from Oakland, Jalen Saunders, Shaquelle Evens and Quincy Enunwa were drafted. Add to the group returners like Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson and Clyde Gates -- plus Saalim Hakim, Greg Salas and Michael Campbell -- and the position looks crowded.

“I think it’s a deep receiving group, as deep as we’ve had here in a long time,” Ryan said. “We’ll see the quality of that group as time goes on, but I think there is some quality there and it’s fairly deep ... Guys are fighting for reps and the [competition] should be really good, and you hope at the end of the day we come out of it with six or so really good receivers.”

Last year Hill had 24 catches for 342 yards and a touchdown. It was up from his rookie season, when he had 21 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns. He has played in 23 total games.

All the while, Hill has heard increasing criticism from fans who think taking him in the second round of the 2012 draft hasn’t paid off.

“I don’t care what anybody says,” Hill said. “The only people I need to prove it to are the coaches and myself.”

Hill said he doesn’t read the criticism.

“Coming from Georgia Tech you have stuff like that,” Hill said. “Coming out of high school you have the same thing. Whatever people say that’s their opinion. But I got to go out there and run the routes, catch the ball it’s all on me. I’m basically my biggest critic.”
Your questions, my answers on the New York Jets:

 

Sunday notes: An inside look at Jets' draft

May, 11, 2014
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Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets' most prolific draft in 16 years:

1. Cheaper by the dozen: The history books will show that the Jets and San Francisco 49ers tied for the most selections -- 12. In terms of volume, this was the Jets' biggest haul since 1998, when Bill Parcells was running the show and drafted 12 players. They'd better hope this one turns out better than '98, which produced only one quality player -- tackle Jason Fabini.

2. Balanced attack: The Jets selected six players on offense, six on defense. So everybody in the building is happy.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun"I think we have a lot of excellent football players here, and I know our organization's excited about these players," said Rex Ryan about the Jets' draft.
3. Needy Jets: They always talk about taking the proverbial "best player available," but this smacks of a "need" draft. Basically, the Jets devoted half the draft to their two biggest needs, picking three defensive backs (two corners and one safety) and three wide receivers. The last time they took three receivers was 1990, when they drafted Reggie Rembert (traded before the opener), Terance Mathis and Dale Dawkins.

4. Enough speed? The prevailing thought going into the draft was they needed to pick a burner at wide receiver, a home run threat to play opposite Eric Decker. It's still an issue, as they passed on the high-profile prospects. Who are the starting receivers? Decker and ... Jeremy Kerley? He's better in the slot. Stephen Hill? Come on. The Jets are hoping one (or more) of their three receiver picks can develop into that kind of player. Jalen Saunders (fourth round) is small and shifty. Shaq Evans (fourth) had five touchdown catches of 54-plus yards in his career. Quincy Enunwa (sixth) set a Nebraska single-season record with 12 touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in the Gator Bowl. So we'll see.

5. John the deliberate: There were 27 trades during the draft, but the Jets were one of only seven teams that didn't get involved. General manager John Idzik took a passive approach, letting the draft come to him, as they like to say. That's unfortunate, because the Jets -- armed with eight tradable picks at the outset -- wasted an opportunity to jump up and grab players they really liked. You're not going to have 12 rookies on your opening-day roster, so why not use some of the picks to improve your draft position? Instead of attacking, they played a read-and-react style. I wonder if everyone in the draft room was comfortable with that strategy.

6. Mission impossible: We live in a world of instant analysis, so draft experts and folks like me are required to assign grades as soon as the draft is complete. In most cases, it's a pointless exercise. For the record, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Jets a B, same grade as last year. The Jets received generally favorable reviews from the so-called gurus, yet it's interesting to note that only two picks (Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro) appeared in the pre-draft top-100 lists of Kiper, Todd McShay, Mike Mayock and Scouts Inc. As a matter of fact, eight of their picks were ranked 200 or lower on the Scouts Inc. list. Hmm.

7. Rex the restrained: Rex Ryan, who famously gloated last season that the 2013 draft was an "A-plus" for the Jets, refrained from making any over-the-top declarations -- well, kind of. "To say it's an A-plus now, I’m not going to do that," he said. "But I think give us the season, let that thing run out, then I’ll be more than happy to. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's an A-plus again because I think we have a lot of excellent football players here, and I know our organization’s excited about these players." Last year's draft produced five starters; that won't happen this year.

8. Coach Mac attack: The happiest guy in the building might have been new special teams coach Thomas McGaughey. Except for quarterback Tajh Boyd, the draft is filled with prime candidates for special teams. That should help improve the overall athleticism on a unit that showed signs of decay last season. The most dynamic addition is Saunders, who scored on two punt returns last season and averaged 15.4 yards.

9. I.K. is OK: I never thought defensive Michael Sam was a serious possibility for the Jets because, at 6-foot-2, 261 pounds, he's not an ideal scheme fit in Ryan's base 3-4. But in the sixth round, the Jets drafted defensive end I.K. Enemkpali, who is 6-1, 261 pounds. Not only is Enemkpali slower than Sam, based on their reported 40-yard dash times, but his level of competition in college doesn't match that of Sam -- Louisiana Tech and Missouri, respectively.

"I don’t know that we’ll get into guys that we would have considered and comparing them against ours," said Idzik, when asked why he took Enemkpali over Sam. "Obviously, we felt very good about I.K. and he has a chance to fit a role here, come in and compete." The Jets did Sam a favor by not picking him. The media attention in New York would've been crazy, a major distraction for him and the team. Sam landed in the ideal place. Kudos to the St. Louis Rams.

10. Character issues: At least three of the 12 picks were arrested in college. Enemkpali was arrested in the spring of 2011, and charged with disturbing the peace and battery of a police officer. He received a school suspension. In March 2012, Amaro was arrested on felony credit card fraud; the charges were eventually dropped. In December 2012, Saunders was arrested for marijuana possession. The charge was dropped when a teammate took responsibility.

11. Two firsts: Enemkpali became the first player from Louisiana Tech drafted by the Jets. Ditto for cornerback Brandon Dixon, from NW Missouri State.

12. Different strokes, different folks: Under Idzik, the Jets have drafted 19 players in two years. His predecessor, Mike Tannenbaum, selected 21 players in his last four drafts.

13. Matty Iced: If I'm Matt Simms, I'm feeling a bit concerned about my job security. Ryan made it quite clear he was the driving force behind the Boyd selection.

14. The Black Holes: I found it interesting the Jets used their first two picks on positions in which they haven't had much drafting success -- safety and tight end. The last drafted tight end to make the Pro Bowl was Mickey Shuler (1978, third round) and the last safety was Erik McMillan (1988, third round).

15. Quote of the draft: From Ryan's post-draft news conference: "Did we get everybody we wanted? As far as you guys know, we did."

Jets draft preview: Wide receiver

April, 29, 2014
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This is the second installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Wide receiver

Current personnel: Eric Decker (signed through 2018), Jeremy Kerley (2014), Stephen Hill (2015), David Nelson (2014), Jacoby Ford (2014), Clyde Gates (2014), Greg Salas (2014), Saalim Hakim (2015), Michael Campbell (2014), Dwight Jones (2016).

Projected starters: Decker, Kerley.

Newcomers: Decker, Ford.

Departures: Santonio Holmes (cut), Josh Cribbs (free agent).

Top salary-cap charge: Decker, $4 million.

Scouting report: We could provide a stream of negative statistics, underscoring the bleak state of the position, but that would be piling on at this point. Well, OK, just one: Kerley's 43 catches were the fewest by the Jets' leading receiver since 1979. They partially addressed the need in free agency, giving Decker a $7 million-a-year contract, but they don't have a reliable speed receiver on the perimeter. Hill was supposed to be that guy, but he hasn't put it together for a variety of reasons. They're in big trouble if they don't add a dynamic playmaker. Another factor to consider is the long-term outlook. Decker and Hill are the only veterans under contract in 2015, so building depth has to be a priority. It would be a shock if they don't draft at least two receivers.

Last WRs drafted: The Jets picked Hill (second round) and Jordan White (seventh) in 2012.

Potential targets: Assuming they stay put in the first round, the player to watch with the 18th pick is Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU), an all-around talent whose stock is creeping up. He has the skill set to catch passes on all three levels of the defense and he returns kicks. The Jets love his game and his character. Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) and Marqise Lee (USC) are possibilities, too. Cooks is the fastest of the three (he blazed the 40 in 4.33 seconds at the combine), but he's a shade under 5-10. Some scouts see him as a slot receiver. Lee is a fluid athlete, but he's coming off a pedestrian year filled with drops. He'd be a slight reach at 18. Because of the depth at the position, the Jets could find a quality receiver in the second or third round. Cody Latimer (Indiana) and Paul Richardson (Colorado) are nice-sized receivers that fit in a West Coast system. John Brown (Pittsburg State) is a late-round possibility.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 10.

Jets Twitter Mailbag

April, 19, 2014
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It's the weekly Jets Mailbag and since Rich Cimini is out of the office this weekend, I'll be tackling your questions.

How Decker could impact draft strategy

March, 13, 2014
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So the New York Jets' wide-receiver situation has improved over the past 24 hours, with the addition of Eric Decker. Now you have Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill and David Nelson as your top four guys. You have basketball size with Nelson (6-foot-5), Hill (6-4) and Decker (6-3). The Jets could add another veteran in free agency, perhaps James Jones (6-1).

Does this preclude them from drafting a receiver in the first round? Not at all. They absolutely could select a "speed" player to complement all the big bodies. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. certainly could see them going in that direction. He believes they still need a No. 1 receiver because he doesn't see Decker thriving in that role.

"I think Decker is a good No. 2 receiver," Kiper said Thursday in a media conference call. "If you’re asking more than that, maybe you’re expecting too much. He was in the perfect scenario certainly in Denver with Peyton [Manning] last year, when you think about what he was able to do numbers-wise. When he was at Minnesota, I had a second-, third-round grade on him when he came out. I liked him coming out of Minnesota as a 2, not a 1.

"If you get a guy like Marqise Lee or you get a guy like Odell Beckham Jr. (at No. 18), or if you get a guy like Brandin Cooks at that point, you’re still getting a guy who could be very viable with Decker," Kiper continued. "They still could take a wide receiver. If they didn’t, you have to look at a versatile linebacker, you certainly could look at a tight end if [Eric] Ebron slid down there. There’s going to be an attractive receiver still there. What they have to decide is, is Decker enough or do they want to get an Odell Beckham Jr. or a Brandin Cooks or Marqise Lee because all three of those players -- at least two of those -- I think still could be there when the Jets pick."

We still have two months to debate it.

Mayock: Jets could pick multiple receivers

February, 18, 2014
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NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock conducted a pre-combine conference call Tuesday with reporters. A few takeaways from a New York Jets perspective:

1. Mayock called this "the deepest and best draft class I've seen in probably 10 years," especially at the wide receiver position. That's good news for the receiver-needy Jets. Mayock said there's so much talent in the draft that a general manager told him that having a top-20 pick this year is equivalent to a top-10 choice last year. The Jets pick 18th.

2. Assessing the Jets' receiving situation, Mayock said, "They need some talent out there." He said he wouldn't be surprised if the Jets picked multiple receivers in the draft. That, of course, could hinge on how they attack free agency. He believes the Jets could have a shot at one of the top three wideouts at 18, most likely USC's Marqise Lee or Texas A&M's Mike Evans. Clemson's Sammy Watkins will be "long gone."

3. Lee and Evans are totally different in terms of body types and skill sets. Lee can play inside, outside and return kicks. At 6-5, Evans is a massive target on the outside. Mayock mentioned how the Jets already have Jeremy Kerley in the slot and Stephen Hill on the outside, adding that Santonio Holmes (an expected cap casualty) is "at the end of his career." Mayock added, "I just think you pick less about X's and O's there; it's which guy is the best football player. My perspective is, you can't go wrong with either Marqise Lee or Mike Evans." He also mentioned Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin, in the Evans mold at 6-5, as a possible consideration.

4. Mayock is high on North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, so much so that he wouldn't be surprised if Ebron is a top-10 pick. The Jets need a pass-catching tight end like Ebron. Based on Mayock's evaluation, it doesn't sound like he'll slip to 18.

5. It took more than a half-hour into the session with reporters, but Mayock was finally asked about Missouri's Michael Sam, the first openly gay prospect in NFL history. Sam's sexual orientation never was mentioned; Mayock kept it strictly about football, giving Sam a lukewarm evaluation.

"He’s a tweener," Mayock said. "That's why people have trouble with the evaluation. ... I saw him on tape and again at the Senior Bowl. What I saw was a natural edge rush guy. He's much better going forward than backward. He’s got a little bit of explosion off the edge, but he doesn’t have the length (at 6-1 5/8, 255 pounds). He’s got linebacker size, but he’s got the physical skill set of a defensive end. He’s a tough fit. What I see is a situational pass-rusher, not an every-down player, and a core special teamer."

Mayock expects Sam to be picked anywhere from the third to fifth round.

6. Mayock raved about Notre Dame's Zack Martin and his versatility, his ability to play guard and tackle. It would be a stunner if the Jets went in that direction at 18, but it's something to file away, considering guard Willie Colon and tackle Austin Howard are headed to free agency.

Examining team needs: Wide receiver

February, 10, 2014
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The New York Jets' wide-receiver situation calls to mind the popular car-insurance commercial, the one where a guy is told he can save 15 percent in 15 minutes. He responds, "Everybody knows that."

Well, it's the same deal with the Jets at receiver: Everybody knows they need help, lots of help. It's their No. 1 priority in the offseason. Consider: A total of 94 players produced more receptions last season than the Jets' leading receiver, Jeremy Kerley, who had 43 catches. Get the picture?

The Jets will go into free agency next month with a depth chart that includes No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 receivers, but no clear-cut No. 1 and No. 2. Their most accomplished wideout, Santonio Holmes, is a likely salary-cap casualty. The wideout with the most long-term potential, Stephen Hill, has disappointed. Quarterback Geno Smith will have no chance to improve unless the front office surrounds him with some playmakers.

Projected off-season plan: Look for the Jets to make at least two significant acquisitions -- one in free agency, one via the draft.

Free agency: The Jets should be able to find a solid No. 2. Two players jump out as possibilities -- Golden Tate (Seattle Seahawks) and Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles). GM John Idzik is familiar with Tate from his years in Seattle and the same can be said for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Maclin.

Tate and Maclin are only 25, still early enough in their prime years to warrant a big contract. Maclin's familiarity with Mornhinweg's offense makes him a natural fit, but there's risk because Maclin is coming off ACL surgery. Idzik has shown he's willing to gamble on medical risks, but those were modest contracts. Maclin will be costly despite his 2013 injury. A one-year, prove-it contract won't be enough to pry him away from the Eagles. Eric Decker (Denver Broncos) will be a hot ticket, but buyer beware: His gaudy numbers are due, in large part, to Peyton Manning. Nevertheless, he'll get paid like a No. 1 receiver, figuring to land a deal for at least $9 million per year. The Jets would be wise to stay out of that neighborhood, focusing on a $5 million-to-$7 million-a-year receiver that can grow alongside the wideout they pick in the draft. The Seahawks' Sidney Rice, a possible salary-cap casualty, could be a possibility.

Draft: Six to nine receivers could go in the first round, according to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. The Jets (18th) are sitting in the middle of the round, staring at the likelihood of getting the fourth- or fifth-best wideout. Forget about Sammy Watkins (Clemson); he'll be long gone. Mike Evans (Texas A&M) and Marqise Lee (USC) figure to go somewhere in the 13-to-18 range. Remember, the Jets could move up four or five spots by trading their extra third-rounder, putting them in position to take a top wideout. Idzik won't force a "need" pick, so it's possible they could wait until Round 2. Signing a good receiver in free agency will allow them the luxury of waiting, if necessary.

Roster evaluation: Player rankings, 21 to 25

February, 4, 2014
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With the 2013 season in the books, it's time to turn our attention to 2014.

February is a critical month because it involves prep for free agency, the scouting combine and, ultimately, the draft. On Monday, the waiver period opened, meaning teams can start cutting players. Basically, this is when teams lay the groundwork for the upcoming season. As New York Jets general manager John Idzik explained, "There are a lot of sticks in the fire right now."

Idzik said the Jets have completed their roster evaluation. We did our own evaluation, ranking the players from 1 to 25, basing it on a variety of factors -- 2013 performance, positional value, salary-cap status and potential.

Our top 25, starting with the bottom five:

21. Mark Sanchez, quarterback, (cap charge: $13.1 million): He played poorly in 2012 and missed 2013 due to shoulder surgery, but Sanchez still has value because of his position and his résumé. He's 33-29 as a starter, plus four playoff wins. Because of supply-and-demand at quarterback, he can't be dismissed. Sanchez probably is done in New York, but he will have suitors.

22. Antonio Allen, safety, (cap charge: $570,000): The former seventh-round pick made terrific strides in his second season, especially in pass coverage. He was essentially a "Sam" linebacker in college, which required a major transition. Barring a significant acquisition, Allen is a likely starter. He must continue to improve his awareness in coverage, especially in zones.

23. Nick Folk, placekicker, (cap charge: Free agent): Folk withstood a training-camp challenge -- so what is new? -- and enjoyed a career year. His mechanics have improved considerably, although he still lacks an explosive leg on kickoffs. He's not an elite kicker, but he's certainly in the top five to 10. Folk wants a long-term deal. The Jets aren't known for paying their kickers, so it'll be interesting to see if they let him test the market.

24. Willie Colon, guard, (cap charge: Free agent): He did a credible job at right guard, replacing stalwart Brandon Moore. Colon led the team in penalties, but he did a solid job in the running game. He caught a bad break in the final game, tearing a biceps and requiring surgery. Obviously, that will hurt his bargaining position. He'll be a fallback option for the Jets, who hope William Campbell or Oday Aboushi can step into a starting role in Year 2.

25. Stephen Hill, wide receiver, (cap charge: $718,000): Hill makes the list because he's a former second-round pick, which carries value. But make no mistake, the scholarship is over. After two disappointing seasons, both of which ended with him on injured reserve, Hill's place on the team no longer is a guarantee.

Jets to host Decker in unofficial FA 'visit'

January, 21, 2014
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One of the benefits to hosting a conference champion at your facility during the run-up to the Super Bowl is being able to show off your digs to potential free agents. In real-estate terms, it's like an open house: Come on in, check us out and see if you can envision yourself here.

Decker
The AFC champion Denver Broncos have a player who might draw interest from the New York Jets in free agency -- wide receiver Eric Decker.

For four days next week, Decker and his teammates will practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., a 224,000 square-foot facility on a 27-acre campus. The players won't have full access inside the building -- some areas are off-limits -- but they certainly will get a good feel for the place, which includes a 5,500 square-foot locker room, five practice fields and a massive field house. For Decker, it'll be like an extended free-agent visit, with non-verbal recruiting.

No doubt, coordinator Marty Mornhinweg would like to have a receiver of Decker's ilk in his offense -- young (27 in March), athletic and big (6-foot-3). The Jets have similar players in Stephen Hill and David Nelson, but Hill has been a disappointment. Nelson is a keeper; it'll be up to them to decide if they believe he can prosper in a prominent role.

Over the last two seasons, Decker has 172 receptions for 2,352 yards, ranking 11th and ninth in the league, respectively. Interested teams will have to address two big questions about him: How much of his production is due to Peyton Manning's brilliance? Is he good enough to be a No. 1 receiver?

No doubt, Decker has benefitted greatly from having Manning, not to mention fellow receiver Demaryius Thomas on the other side. But Decker's ascent started pre-Manning, in 2011, when he scored nine touchdowns in his first full season as a starter.

And that came with Tim Tebow throwing the ball. If he can score nine times with Tebow ... well, you can fill in the rest.

Study: Jets healthiest team in NFL

January, 10, 2014
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The New York Jets faced many challenges in 2013 -- a turnover-prone rookie at quarterback, seven new starters on defense, etc. One thing they didn't have to confront: A spate of injuries.

They were the healthiest team in the league, according to a study by Dallas Morning News football writer Rick Gosselin. The Jets lost a league-low 20 games by starters due to injury, including only five on defense. That, too, was the league-low.

The study doesn't reflect Mark Sanchez's season-ending shoulder surgery in the preseason. That would've been another 16 games lost if you operate under the presumption he would've been the opening-day starter. As you know, Rex Ryan never named a starting quarterback. Still hasn't.

The Jets got hit at wide receiver, where they lost Santonio Holmes (five games) and Stephen Hill (four). But, all things considered, they were extraordinarily fortunate when it came to injuries. Good thing, too, because they probably didn't have enough depth in certain areas.

On defense, they lost cornerback Dee Milliner and outside linebacker Quinton Coples for three and two games, respectively, providing continuity that allowed the coaches to integrate seven new starters. General manager John Idzik needs to fortify the team's depth in his second offseason because, honestly, what are the chances to staying this healthy in 2014?

In case you're wondering, the most injury-prone team was the New York Giants, which lost a league-high 91 games by starters, including 26 on the offensive line.

Final playing-time breakdown: WR

January, 3, 2014
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Continuing our final analysis of 2013 playing time:

Offensive snaps: 1,051

Wide Receiver:

Hill
Stephen Hill -- 594 snaps/57 percent

David Nelson -- 568 snaps/54 percent

Jeremy Kerley -- 567 snaps/54 percent

Santonio Holmes -- 500 snaps/48 percent

Greg Salas -- 156 snaps/15 percent

Clyde Gates -- 133 snaps/13 percent

Ben Obomanu -- 41 snaps/4 percent

Josh Cribbs -- 30 snaps/3 percent

Ryan Spadola -- 27 snaps/3 percent

Michael Campbell -- 24 snaps/2 percent

Saalim Hakim -- 9 snaps/0.9 percent

Analysis: No position was affected more by injuries than wide receiver. Sanjay Lal's receiver room must have felt like a bus station, with near-constant coming and going. Eleven receivers played at least one snap. The top three wideouts -- Holmes, Hill and Kerley -- all missed time due to injuries. ... You knew this was going to be a tough year for Holmes, coming off a serious foot injury that hampered his ability to train in the offseason. That probably was the cause of his torn hamstring, which cost him five games. In case you're wondering, Holmes made $15,000 per snap, based on his $7.5 million salary. ... Hill finished the season on injured reserve for the second year in a row. ... Nelson, picked up off the street in Week 5, saved the unit from falling into total disarray. He led the group in playing time over the second half of the season.

Injury notes: Goodson's rehab on track

December, 30, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mike Goodson was one of the highly touted free agent signings after New York Jets general manager John Idzik took the job, but a late-night arrest for marijuana, an illegal gun and illegal ammunition charge took the running back off the field for a four-game suspension.

lastname
Goodson
When Goodson did play -- he had 7 carries for 61 yards in the two games he played -- he looked good, but an MCL and ACL injury took him off the field for the rest of the season. On Monday, Goodson was in the locker room in the middle of a projected five-month recovery, following surgery he had prior to the Jets' bye week.

“It was real frustrating,” Goodson said. "Starting off with those two games and they said they wanted to work me in slow. And when I was working in slow I was making plays. I felt myself coming along strong and then the injury. It’s discouraging and encouraging because I know what I can do. I’m going to rehab my knee, it’s feeling stronger and stronger every day, so just come back next year man, I’ll be ready.”

Goodson said he will stay in the area during the offseason in order to continue to rehab with team trainers. He is on a three-year, $6.9 million deal with the Jets, but has been indicted on the weapons charges and could face a trial in the coming year. If convicted, Goodson could be sentenced for 10 years.

He declines to talk about the legal issue, but said it wasn’t part of the consideration for staying in the area. Goodson said the Jets were encouraged by what he did on the field.

“They said they liked what they saw,” Goodson said.

Goodson wasn’t the only injured player to discuss his future on the last day of the season.

Winslow
WINSLOW WANTS BACK: Jets TE Kellen Winslow Jr. said he hasn’t discussed a new deal with the Jets yet, but would want to return and play for the team. Winslow said he felt the team managed a persistent knee injury well during the season, giving him a day off from practice once each week.

“I can play 16, it’s just all about getting to the game,” Winslow said.

Winslow, drafted in 2004, had 31 catches for 388 yards this season. He know his knee could make another season.

CRIBBS NOTES: Josh Cribbs, the KR/RB the Jets signed after the season started, had surgery immediately after he suffered a pectoral injury in December. There is a 4-5 month recovery window on the injury.

“I hurt it on a Sunday, I had surgery that Friday,” Cribbs said.

Cribbs
Cribbs, the former longtime Cleveland Brown, also weighed in on Rob Chudzinski's firing earlier in the day.

"I thought he'd have more of a chance to put his niche on things, because that wasn't his team,” Cribbs said. “Those weren't the guys he drafted. I would've liked to have seen that regime play out."

DESTROYER PACKAGE: Sheldon Richardson said the Jets have a name for the offensive formation they used yesterday -- the "Destroyer Package." It consisted of three defensive linemen in the backfield -- Richardson, Damon Harrison and Kenrick Ellis. Sheldon: "That's a cool 1,000 pounds." Richardson got the handoff and ran for 1 yard.

Richardson also said DL coach Karl Dunbar, who has an expiring contract, should stay: "I don't think we're going to lose him."

OPEN GATES: Clyde Gates, who had shoulder surgery after an October injury, said he hopes to be back next season. He is under contract, but had an issue with drops during a 24-catch, 122-yard season.

THIS AND THAT: RB Chris Ivory has a hip pointer after sustaining the injury in the win over Miami. …WR Stephen Hill said there is no surgery planned on his injured knee, and he said trainers are trying to set up a rehab program that will strengthen it.

Green Day: Offseason issues await Idzik

December, 30, 2013
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MIAMI -- It has been nearly three years since that magical day in Foxborough, where the New York Jets delivered their biggest win since that other magical day in the franchise's history, Super Bowl III, in 1969.

In January 2011, Rex Ryan conquered his nemesis, the New England Patriots, creating a big, loud and cocky green monster that figured to wreak havoc for seasons to come. But instead of the Incredible Hulk, they turned into Shrek -- ugly and goofy.

On Sunday, the Jets completed their third consecutive non-playoff season. It's their longest postseason drought since the dark ages of the 1990s, when they failed for six straight years under four different coaches. Their record since 2011 is just 22-26.

Without question, they overachieved in 2013, squeezing eight wins out of a young roster devoid of stars. Ryan did a commendable job in a rebuilding year and will return in 2014, the team announced after a season-ending 20-7 victory in Miami.

For GM John Idzik, the honeymoon is over. It's on him, and he faces an offseason with many challenging issues. Such as:

Augment the quarterback position: This is the biggest decision facing the Jets. They have to decide if Geno Smith is a true No. 1 quarterback or whether they should hedge their bet by bringing in legitimate competition. They have 16 games on tape to evaluate.

While Smith's late-season rally reduces the need to make a major acquisition, the smart play would be to add a competent veteran. Problem is, it's hard to find that guy, a No. 1/No. 2 quarterback.

Mark Sanchez fits the description, but there are health and salary-related questions, not to mention the entire issue of whether they'd want to re-create last summer's competition. Been there, done that.

An interesting target would be Kirk Cousins, who probably will be dangled in trade talks by the Washington Redskins. He wouldn't come cheaply in terms of compensation, maybe a second-round pick. That's a lot to surrender for a possible backup, but they have to look at the long view. He'd be an asset that appreciates in value.

They could go for Matt Schaub, the 2006 version of Cousins. Schaub would bring some baggage to the party, assuming he's released by the Houston Texans, but he’s still only 32 and would be a worthwhile reclamation project/insurance policy.

What about the draft? Unless Idzik absolutely falls in love with someone (Johnny Manziel, anyone?), it wouldn't make much sense to sink a first-round pick into a quarterback, one year after using a No. 2 on Smith. Jay Cutler could be the big fish in free agency if the Chicago Bears let him hit the market, but he'd be a disaster in New York.

Rebuild the offense: The Jets' skill-position talent has deteriorated steadily since 2010. Since 2011, they're ranked 26th in scoring, due largely to a lack of playmakers and poor quarterback play. They've ignored this side of the ball under the defensive-minded Ryan. It's time to pour money and resources into the offense so they compete in an offense-obsessed league.

They need a new tight end and two new wide receivers, preferably a game-breaker. Stephen Hill was supposed to be that guy, but he can't be counted on after two disappointing seasons.

The free-agent market for receivers is thin -- Eric Decker of the Denver Broncos might be the best -- so look for Idzik to address the need in the draft. There are a couple of good ones, Sammy Watkins (Clemson) and Marqise Lee (USC), assuming they turn pro. The top free-agent tight end is Jimmy Graham, but there's little chance he gets away from the New Orleans Saints.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Cromartie
AP Photo/Alan DiazWill Antonio Cromartie, a Pro Bowl cornerback in 2012, be playing in the Jets' secondary in 2014?
Spend money: Facing a tight cap situation last offseason, Idzik operated on a shoestring budget, doling out modest contracts. Cap space won't be an issue this time. With Darrelle Revis coming off the books, and with Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes likely to be released (a total savings of $16.5 million), the Jets will have close to $40 million in cap space.

In theory, the Jets could stage their biggest spending spree since 2008, the year they acquired Alan Faneca, Kris Jenkins, Calvin Pace and Damien Woody, but Idzik believes in building through the draft. He owns eight choices, a total that could grow to 10 or 11 with expected compensatory picks.

This is "go" time for Idzik, a chance to show his acumen as a team-builder.

The first thing they should do is take care of couple of their own free agents, namely right tackle Austin Howard and kicker Nick Folk. Both earned long-term deals with their play in 2013. Linebacker Pace and guard Willie Colon are B-list free agents who have value for the short term.

Out with the old: Sanchez, Holmes and Antonio Cromartie -- key players on the 2010 team that reached the AFC Championship Game -- are highly paid players with injury questions. It's possible all three could be playing elsewhere in 2014.

Holmes is a goner, for sure. They would've cut him two years ago if it weren't for $24 million in guarantees, one of the contracts that got Mike Tannenbaum fired. Sanchez fits the profile of what they need, but he's due a $2 million roster bonus in March -- and there's no way that will be paid. He'd have to agree to a massive pay cut, and that's unlikely to happen. Chances are, he'll be released.

Cromartie is a tough call, with a lot depending on his bad hip. His contract, which runs through 2014, is prohibitive -- a $15 million cap charge, including a $5 million roster bonus. He says he wants to retire a Jet, but let's see if he changes his tune when they propose a pay cut. Chances are, they'll cut him, letting him establish a market price before deciding whether to bring him back on a new deal.

Injury report: Hill could be done for year

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Jets head coach Rex Ryan did not rule out the possibility receiver Stephen Hill might not play the rest of this season due to swelling in his knee. Hill sat out Sunday's win over Oakland and did not practice Wednesday. He was in the bike area during the open portion of practice.

"I don't know. We'll see," Ryan said about Hill's season being over. "Obviously we'd like to get him out here if he can play and can be effective. That would the best-case scenario for us. We'll see how it progresses."

Hill
Ryan acknowledged Hill's knee injury has slowed him, particularly during his recent funk. In Hill's past four games, he has just one catch for 2 yards. Through 12 games, he has just 24 catches for 342 yards and one touchdown. He's hauled in fewer than half of his targets this season.

"I think we've all been like, 'What's going on here?' and I think it's become clear he's had some swelling, some issues with his knee where he hasn't been able to burst out of breaks and things like that," Ryan said. "He was practicing, he was gutting it out, he'll do those things. How much [has that] helped him? Obviously [it] hasn't helped him a whole lot. We're trying to get him back to where he can really run and burst out of cuts and things like that."

The Jets traded up in the 2012 draft to acquire Hill, giving up fifth- and seventh-round picks to grab the Georgia Tech product. Hill hasn't fulfilled expectations, though, as he barely has made a difference and hasn't been a threat on the outside. The pick looks even worse considering Chicago receiver Alshon Jeffery, who was chosen two picks after Hill, is fifth in the NFL in receiving yards.

Ryan admitted that Hill's progression doesn't look good at the moment. He said he doesn't regret the selection, though.

"Really, by Year 3, I think that's the big one, you'll know if this guy has really hit it [or] this guy maybe hasn't been as good," Ryan said. "Certainly by the numbers, I understand you expect [a] certain amount of production, but there's some contributing factors here. I know one thing: He had a great training camp and we were all excited. I was excited about seeing him make those steps. Sometimes you're limited through different things."

Here's the full injury report:

JETS

DID NOT PRACTICE
WR Stephen Hill (knee)
CB Antonio Cromartie (hip/concussion)
TE Kellen Winslow (knee)

LIMITED PRACTICE
WR Santonio Holmes (foot/hamstring)
LB Garrett McIntyre (knee)

FULL PRACTICE
LB DeMario Davis (thumb)
DL Kenrick Ellis (back)
WR Jeremy Kerley (elbow)
WR David Nelson (ribs)
WR Greg Salas (finger)
DL Muhammad Wilkerson (wrist)

PANTHERS

DID NOT PRACTICE
OG Nate Chandler (elbow)
DT Dwan Edwards (non-injury)
OT Jordan Gross (non-injury)
TE Greg Olsen (foot)
RB Jonathan Stewart (knee)
OG Travelle Wharton (non-injury)

LIMITED PRACTICE
OG Chris Scott (knee)
LB Jordan Senn (hamstring)

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