- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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CORTLAND, N.Y. – The New York Jets' wide receiver situation is shaping up, but there are still a lot of question marks. Santonio Holmes, widely regarded as the best receiver on the Jets' roster, shows no sign of an imminent return from Lisfranc surgery. Braylon Edwards has been solid, but was signed late and is on a pitch count.
And then there is second-year pro Stephen Hill, who declared on Wednesday that he is ready to compete for the top spot in the rotation.
"Honestly, I feel like I can be that guy even if [Holmes] is out there on the field," Hill said. "That's just my competitiveness; that's what I feel like I can do. If I can be that No. 1 wide receiver, that's what I'm striving for. He's definitely going to make that comeback sooner or later, but other than that I'm definitely striving to be that No. 1 guy."
That's quite a statement, especially when you consider Hill is perhaps best-known for a costly drop against the New England Patriots in October of his rookie year. There are those who look back at that moment and wonder if the drop changed the trajectory of the entire season. Hill is aware it will be brought up in Week 2 as the Jets prepare to meet the Patriots again, but he doesn't think drops are what define his short career.
"I only dropped three balls last year, that's what I know," Hill said. "I look back at the film because I watch film every day. However that goes, that's people's opinions, that's not facts."
Hill has looked solid in training camp, making tough catches using the benefit of his 6-foot-4 frame. He's even gotten a shout-out from coach Rex Ryan, in a cryptic kind of way.
"I'm not going to comment on Stephen, because he's doing so well I'm not going to comment on him," Ryan said on Monday.
Hill smiled when he heard.
"That's a good thing," Hill said, "but I still feel like I have a lot of things to work on."
Quarterback Mark Sanchez said Hill has returned in better shape and is better prepared, which you would expect of a player with a full NFL season under his belt.
"He looks a little more mature, a little bigger, a little better on his feet. He looks a little more developed, like he's having fun," Sanchez said. "Things aren't moving as fast for him this year. ... Last year, things were kind of spinning for him."
It's a long way from rookie mistakes to the starting spot, but Hill is already talking a big game.