NFL Nation: Stephen Hill

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.
NFL Network draft 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.

Study: Jets healthiest team in NFL

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
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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.

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.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Stephen Hill was a late addition to the injury report on Friday, as the New York Jets wide receiver was added after practicing in a limited capacity thanks to an injured knee.

Hill
All the other Jets were listed as probable for Sunday's 1 p.m. ET game against the Raiders at MetLife Stadium.

Earlier in the day, Jets coach Rex Ryan had said all players were probable, so Hill's status changed.

Jets
Questionable: WR Stephen Hill (knee).
Probable: G Willie Colon (calf), CB Antonio Cromartie (hip), DT Kenrick Ellis (back), WR Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring), RB Chris Ivory (ankle), WR Jeremy Kerley (elbow), C Nick Mangold (wrist), LB Garrett McIntyre (knee), CB Dee Milliner (wrist), WR Greg Salas (finger), QB Geno Smith (right wrist), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (wrist), TE Kellen Winslow (knee)

Raiders
Doubtful: G Mike Brisiel (ankle/knee), LB Kaluka Maiava (ribs/calf), RB Darren McFadden (ankle), WR Denarius Moore (shoulder), RB Jeremy Stewart (ankle/knee), S Usama Young (neck).
Questionable: S Tyvon Branch (ankle), LB Miles Burris (toe), RB Rashad Jennings (concussion).
Probable: DE Jason Hunter (foot), T Menelik Watson (illness).

W2W4: Jets at Ravens

November, 22, 2013
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Let's call it like it is: The New York Jets stink on the road.


They've dropped 15 of their last 21, including 1-4 this season. Their minus-12 turnover margin is by far the worst in the league. They've been outscored in the first quarter, 34-6, suggesting they're not mentally or physically ready to play. Their shortcomings were on full display last Sunday in Orchard Park, where the Jets were embarrassed by the struggling Buffalo Bills, 37-14.

Here's the crazy thing: The Jets used to be a terrific road team under Rex Ryan, going 11-5 in his first two seasons -- plus four playoff wins. Those were the days.

On Sunday, the Jets (5-5) visit the Baltimore Ravens (4-6) at M&T Bank Stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff, and this game has a scary look to it. The Ravens are 36-8 at home under John Harbaugh, whose defense tends to dominate on its own turf. They've allowed only 12.8 points per game in four home games.

This has the makings of a rough day for the Jets. What to watch for:

Smith
1. The Geno-scope: Geno Smith is one bad performance away from being involved in a full-blown quarterback controversy. He was pulled in the fourth quarter of the previous two losses, both blowouts, and he'll end up on the bench again, perhaps permanently, if he doesn't stop committing turnovers. The turnover count is up to 20, including 13 in five road games. The Jets want to make it work with Smith, especially with no viable veteran on the bench, but there comes a point where you have to say, "Enough is enough."

Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has to do something to get Smith -- and the entire offense -- out of this funk. Naturally, he will try to feature the running game to take some pressure off Smith, perhaps incorporating wrinkles in the Wildcat and read-option packages. Unfortunately for the Jets, the Ravens allow only 3.7 yards per rush, No. 6 in the league. Mornhinweg should impress upon Smith the importance of looking for his check-down options. He too often stays locked on his No. 1 read, forcing the ball into coverage. Against the Bills, he targeted his backs only four times.

Holmes
2. Someone help the kid: Naturally, Smith took the brunt of the criticism for last week's mess, but he got no help from his receivers, who struggled against man-to-man coverage. That was a point of emphasis in practice; let's see if it works. Stephen Hill, branded a disappointment by Rex Ryan, received the good cop, bad cop treatment from Mornhinweg and Ryan, respectively. His starting job was threatened, but he'll still end up playing a lot. Santonio Holmes' hamstring still is an issue, so who knows how much he can contribute? Mornhinweg should feature his tight ends, as the Ravens' safeties are suspect in coverage, especially ex-Jet James Ihedigbo.

3. Secure the edges: This is a big game for the Jets' tackles, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Austin Howard. The Ravens bring plenty of heat on the edges, with rush linebacker Terrell Suggs (nine sacks) and situational rusher Elvis Dumervil (8.5 sacks). Smith took a beating last week, starting from the very first series, and he's at a vulnerable stage in his development. If he gets hit hard and early, he's liable to turn skittish. The Ravens pounded Mark Sanchez in 2011, and there are some who believe he wasn't the same after that beating. The Ravens' pass rush is particularly effective at home. Since 2011, they've record 67 sacks, tied for second in the league.

Reed
4. Homecoming, Part Deaux: This should be a special day for Ravens icon Ed Reed, except he already did the homecoming thing in Week 3 as a member of the Houston Texans. That didn't go particularly well. His team lost, 30-9, and his performance was non-descript. That, too, was the case last week in his Jets debut. Now, more than ever, the Jets need Reed to turn back the clock. A big play by the future Hall of Famer, especially in his old house, would be an enormous spark for the Jets, who have allowed an alarming number of long completions.

Joe Flacco likes to throw deep, especially to Torrey Smith, whose vertical speed could cause problems for struggling CB Antonio Cromartie. The good news for the Jets is that Flacco, he of the Super Bowl MVP and $120 million contract, is having a subpar season -- especially on deep balls. In fact, he has only two touchdowns and five interceptions on throws of longer than 15 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

5. Rising Sons: The Jets' defensive line -- a.k.a. Sons of Anarchy -- should dominate the line of scrimmage. The Ravens' offensive line is really struggling, especially C Gino Gradkowski. Their running game showed signs of life last week against the Chicago Bears, but it has been a major disappointment, especially Ray Rice, averaging only 3.0 yards per carry. It would be an absolute shock if the Jets, with the best run defense in the league, allow more than 75 yards. In theory, they should turn the Ravens into a one-dimensional offense, allowing them to devour Flacco, who already has 33 sacks. But, as we've seen a few times, it doesn't work out that way because of the problems in coverage.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Stephen Hill became a starter the moment he was picked in the second round of the 2012 draft. Those days could be over.

Hill, who has gone two straight games without a catch, is in jeopardy of losing his job, according to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan.

"Yeah, that will be a consideration," Ryan said Monday.

In other words, it will be a surprise if Hill keeps his job.

Hill has been a non-factor in six consecutive games. For the season, he has only 23 receptions despite the fact that he has played a team-high 517 snaps at wide receiver. The lowpoint occurred Sunday against the Buffalo Bills: Hill had no catches despite seven targets.

Ryan, who rarely criticizes players in public, delivered an unusually blunt evaluation of Hill.

"It certainly hasn't been what we thought it would be and where we hoped it would be," he said. "I know the want-to is there, it's just that the production hasn't been there for whatever reason."

Ryan noted that opponents might be paying more attention to Hill, but that seemed like a bit of a stretch. The fact is, Hill is a one-dimensional receiver -- a vertical threat -- whose importance has been minimized because of the overall struggles of the passing game.

"It's frustrating to him, to all of us," said Ryan, who wasn't keen on the idea of trading up for Hill and picking him in the second round. "We've been expecting bigger things from Stephen and, quite honestly, it just hasn't happened."

The Jets took a chance on Hill because of his size and speed, but he was a raw receiver coming out of Georgia Tech, where he was used mostly as a blocker in a triple-option offense.

Hill likely would be replaced by David Nelson, who has 17 catches in only six games since being signed as a free agent.

Stephen Hill claims he's not frustrated

November, 9, 2013
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Remember Stephen Hill? He used to be a wide receiver on the New York Jets.

Hill
Ever since his big game against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3, Hill has disappeared from the offfense. He has only 10 catches for 107 yards and zero touchdowns over the past six games. Granted, he missed almost an entire game with a concussion (Week 5), but the lack of productivity has spanned long enough to raise questions.

It's not like he can't get on the field. The healthiest receiver on the team, Hill has participated in a team-high 76 percent of the offensive snaps (466 out of 612), yet he hasn't received too many looks from Geno Smith -- only 24 targets in the past six games.

Hill insisted it's not frustrating.

"No, it's not," he said. "I go out there and do my job every play. I block when I need to block, and they get big runs off that. It showed [Sunday]."

Hill made a couple of nice downfield blocks on key running plays against the New Orleans Saints, but he wasn't drafted in the second round last year because of his blocking prowess. He's supposed to be a big-play receiver.

So what's going on? A couple of things.

Since Santonio Holmes' injury in Week 4, the Jets have dialed back the passing game, especially the vertical game. They've taken a conservative approach, featuring the ground attack and reducing the burden on Smith. At this stage of his career, Hill is a one-trick pony -- he stretches the field with deep routes. That element in the offense has been missing. As a result, so has Hill, who basically runs clearouts for Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson.

The good news for Hill is that the Jets return from their bye next week against the Bills. He has 197 receiving yards, approximately one-third of his career total, against the Bills, who make him look like Calvin Johnson.

"It could be a turning point," Hill said. "I play well against Buffalo, but I've only played Buffalo twice. I don't know what that means. Those were just mismatches at those times and we had good opportunities."
Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:

1. The Re-X factor: The top storyline for the second half of the season, which begins Sunday, will be the future of head coach Rex Ryan. Owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik have to make a decision: Extend his contract or fire him. Naturally, the No. 1 factor will be the team's record, but there's another factor that should (and will) loom large in the evaluation -- the development of rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

If Smith makes strides and finishes with his arrow pointing up, it would be a huge boost for Ryan and his coaching staff. It would mean he's developing under Marty Mornhinweg & Co., and what sense would it make to start over next year with a new staff? My sense is that a 7-9 record, with an ascending Smith, would be good enough to earn Ryan another year. Statistically, Smith's second quarter was slightly better than the first, but he'll need more than baby steps over the final eight games to nail down the job for 2014. If he regresses, it won't bode well for Ryan.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesWill the Jets use another early draft pick to select a QB if rookie Geno Smith continues to struggle the rest of the season?
"If I put on my GM hat, I would tie Rex, Marty and Geno together," said ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, one of the smart people around football. "The Marty-Geno mix is really good, and I think Marty is good for Rex. The Jets' ceiling, if they acquire more talent, is higher because of Marty's aggressive approach. I wouldn't want to start over with a new guy next year. They should maintain continuity. They're wildly inconsistent, but it looks better and has a better feel than last year. It's a better product."

I agree. But Smith needs to keep going in the right direction.

2. Quarterbacking 101: Dilfer said Smith is operating an offensive system more complex than what the Jets used in Mark Sanchez's rookie year in 2009. In '09, they scaled it back to help Sanchez. It was heavy play-action and they moved the pocket, halving the field and cutting down his reads. With Smith, "It's pure dropback, with complex read progressions," Dilfer said. "Marty is throwing a lot of good stuff at him. It's baptism by fire. Talking to great coaches and great quarterbacks, and knowing my own experience, that's the best way to get the best out of a young quarterback. It speeds them up to the graduate level."

I get it, but I think there should be times when Mornhinweg dials it back a little to help Smith through rough patches.

3. Where the Hill is Stephen? Second-year WR Stephen Hill has become an afterthought in the Jets' offense, raising questions about him. Consider the last five games: 23 targets and only 10 receptions, including five when the team was in an obvious catch-up/passing mode. Save for two big games against the Buffalo Bills, Hill has been a disappointment in his first two seasons. In fact, one-third of his career yardage total (and three of his four TDs) has come in the two Buffalo games.

I asked Mornhinweg about Hill's lack of production, and all he said was, "That's my responsibility. I have to do a better job there." Meaning? "Get him the ball a little bit."

Here's the part that stings the Jets: They drafted Hill in the second round (43rd overall) after trading up, passing up WR Alshon Jeffery, who has become a solid receiver with the Chicago Bears. Jeffery has 57 catches, 928 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons; Hill has 44, 592 and four. The Jets knew Hill would be a project when they drafted him, but it has to be troubling that a receiver off the street -- David Nelson -- has produced better numbers over the past month.

4. Re-visiting Revis Island: Some in the media (including me) have fallen into the trap of trying to imagine the Jets' defense if they had kept CB Darrelle Revis, perhaps conveniently forgetting that he's coming back from major knee surgery. He's still not the Revis of old, and he admitted it the other day on his weekly radio spot in Tampa. Revis, explaining why the Buccaneers haven't used him in the press-man style that made him famous, said his surgically repaired knee has been the main factor.

“Earlier in the year, I didn’t have the explosion to play press; the receiver would just run the [vertical] 9-route on me and I didn’t have the stamina to do that play in and play out, especially playing press," Revis said.

If he were with the Jets, this would be a significant issue, considering their system is predicated on man-to-man coverage.

5. Ivory's payback: Chris Ivory downplayed Sunday's matchup against the New Orleans Saints, his former team, but I suspect he will be highly motivated to prove a point. Back in training camp, Ivory admitted to me that his three-year run in New Orleans was difficult at times because of their crowded backfield.

"I never felt lost, but I didn't like the situation at times," Ivory said. "At the same time, you have to understand there are phases you have to go through, being undrafted. They had guys they drafted, guys they had confidence in. Me, just coming in, I had to build their confidence and it took a little more time."

The Jets traded a fourth-round pick for Ivory, one of only six player trades last offseason involving a fourth-round pick or higher, according to ESPN's John Clayton. The Jets had two of the six -- the Ivory and Revis trades.

6. Revolving door: Because of injuries, it has been difficult to build continuity on offense. In fact, the Jets have used 28 different players, tied with the Bucs for most in the league.

7. Go wide, young man: The Jets aren't known as a perimeter running team, but maybe they should think about it more often. When they run around left end, they average 6.78 yards per carry, the fifth-best mark in the league, according to NFL stats. When they go right end, it's 5.59 yards. Imagine if they had a real perimeter threat.

8. McElroy's intel: Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report spent a week with Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who allowed behind-the-scenes access as he prepared for last week's game against the Jets. The story reveals that former Jets QB Greg McElroy, a member of the Bengals' practice squad, was a big help. McElroy typed up a tip sheet and gave it to QB Andy Dalton. Gruden also picked his brain on the Jets in a meeting.

"His insight is very helpful," Gruden told Pompei in the middle of the week. "He has a pulse on their defense, what hurts them."

I'd say the Bengals hurt them, all right.

9. Good news/bad news: The Jets are one of only 11 teams since 2001 to have a minus-12 turnover margin or worse through eight games. That's bad. Of those 11 teams, they're the only one to have a .500 record. That's good. It indicates what they could be if Smith stops giving it away.

10. Feeling old: The first time I saw Nick Toon was Nov. 27, 1992, the day his dad, Al, retired from the NFL at the too-young age of 29. Nick was only 4, but he was at the news conference, and I remember seeing him afterward in the parking lot at the Jets' old Hofstra training facility. He hopped into a mini-van, and the family drove off. It always struck me that Al's wife, Jane, was behind the wheel. Al, still suffering from post-concussion syndrome, wasn't fit to drive. Now, Nick is a grown-up wide receiver, and he'll be playing Sunday for the Saints at MetLife Stadium. I'll be in the press box, wondering how 21 years flew by in a minute.

Practice Report: Signs of progress

October, 31, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Five New York Jets players did not practice Wednesday, but four of them were doing at least some work Thursday, during the portion of practice open to the media.

Wide receivers Stephen Hill (foot) and Jeremy Kerley (illness), and guard Willie Colon (calf) were in uniform and back on the field. Wideout Santonio Holmes (hamstring) was on the field, too, participating in wide-receiver drills for the second consecutive day.

Tight end Jeff Cumberland (concussion) was not practicing, making it even more likely he will not play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

Hill, unlike Holmes, did not participate in wide-receiver drills. He was riding an exercise bike on the side. The same goes for wideout David Nelson, who did not appear on Wednesday's official injury report, but had a hamstring issue last week.

We'll have more information for you later this afternoon, after interviews and the release of the official injury report.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Geno Smith didn't have many people to throw the ball to Wednesday.

The New York Jets' top three wide receivers -- Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley -- all did not practice, and the same goes for starting tight end Jeff Cumberland.

Cumberland suffered a concussion last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, so his status for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints is very much in question. Holmes did run some routes in position-group drills, but is more likely to return in two weeks, following the Jets' bye. Hill said he expects to play against the Saints. And Kerley wasn't spotted at the practice facility Wednesday.

Right guard Willie Colon also missed practice because of a calf injury.

Here's the full injury report:

JETS

Did Not Participate

G Willie Colon (calf)
TE Jeff Cumberland (concussion)
WR Stephen Hill (foot)
WR Santonio Holmes (hamstring)
WR Jeremy Kerley (illness)

Limited Participation

C Nick Mangold (ribs)

Full Participation

S Antonio Allen (finger)
WR Josh Cribbs (knee)
CB Antonio Cromartie (hip)
DT Kenrick Ellis (back)
LB Garrett McIntyre (knee)
TE Konrad Reuland (knee)
WR Greg Salas (knee)
CB Darrin Walls (shoulder)
G Brian Winters (ankle)

SAINTS

Did Not Participate

WR Marques Colston (knee)
G Jahri Evans (hip)
S Malcolm Jenkins (knee)
S Kenny Vaccaro (concussion, back)
DT Tyrunn Walker (knee)

Limited Participation

TE Jimmy Graham (foot)
S Roman Harper (knee)
LB David Hawthorne (ankle)
WR Kenny Stills (knee)
CB Rod Sweeting (hip)

Full Participation

DE Akiem Hicks (knee)
DE Cameron Jordan (ankle)
CB Keenan Lewis (foot, knee)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets appear to be pretty banged up, as they begin preparing for the New Orleans Saints.

Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was not working with his teammates Wednesday, during the portion of practice open to the media. Wilkerson was doing some running on the side. But it's unclear why he wasn't practicing fully.

Wide receivers Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill were not doing any work. Kerley wasn't even on the field. Hill stretched with the team, but did not have pads on.

Tight end Jeff Cumberland also wasn't on the field, after suffering a head injury last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. And right guard Willie Colon wasn't working either, after injuring his ribs against the Bengals.

On the bright side, Santonio Holmes was participating in wide receiver drills, and even appeared to be going full speed at least a couple times. Holmes looked smooth doing so, raising the possibility that he could make his return against the Saints, prior to the bye week.

We'll know more later this afternoon, after coach Rex Ryan's news conference and the release of the official injury report.

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 6

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
12:30
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A review of four hot issues from the New York Jets' 19-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers:
[+] EnlargeAntonio Cromartie
Seth Wenig/AP PhotoSteelers WR Emmanuel Sanders flips into the end zone for a touchdown as Jets CB Antonio Cromartie chases him in the second half.

A tale of two throws: This might be an oversimplification, but you could say the game came down to two wide-open passes. Ben Roethlisberger made his, Geno Smith didn't. In the second quarter, Smith wasted a great opportunity, overthrowing Stephen Hill (51 air yards) on what should've been a 77-yard touchdown. Hill, showing his vertical speed, blew past CB Ike Taylor and S Troy Polamalu, the only time the Steelers' aging secondary looked embarrassingly slow. A touchdown in that spot would've given the Jets a 10-6 lead, changing the complexion of the game. The misfire was emblematic of the type of day it was for the rookie, who completed only 2 of 10 passes of 15 yards or longer. Meanwhile, Big Ben capitalized on his chance, hitting a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders (35 air yards) for a 55-yard touchdown to make it 16-6 in the third quarter. Roethlisberger showed why he's a two-time Super Bowl champion. Smith showed his inexperience.

What's up with Cro?: This was another subpar performance for CB Antonio Cromartie, who allowed the long touchdown pass and was called for a 25-yard pass interference. This has to concern the Jets because they assumed Cromartie, coming off a Pro Bowl season, would be able to hold down the No. 1 corner job for the second straight year. It's one of the reasons why they felt good about trading Darrelle Revis. According to the Pro Football Focus ratings, Cromartie is ranked 101st among 103 cornerbacks. He has been targeted 41 times, tied for the fifth-highest total, and has surrendered three touchdowns. Interestingly, Roethlisberger went after Cromartie more than anyone else in the Jets' secondary. In case you're wondering, who is PFF's No. 1-rated corner? It's Revis.

Open the screen door: Opponents have discovered the Achilles' heel of the Jets' defense -- short, quick passes, neutralizing their pass rush. The Steelers staged a clinic on screen passes, throwing no fewer than 10, mostly bubble screens to wide receivers. The Jets should've expected this, as the Steelers used 10 screens in their previous game against the Minnesota Vikings. Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman have to figure out a way to stop the trend, because the defense is getting sliced and diced. In the past three games, Jake Locker, Matt Ryan and Roethlisberger have completed 77 of 99 attempts for 732 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a 117.7 passer rating. For a defense, that stinks.

What happened to MartyBall? Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, widely praised for his aggressive play calling in the first five games, got conservative. In the first half, he called 12 runs and 14 pass plays -- and the pass plays were of the dink-and-dunk variety. Ryan acknowledged the Jets tried to run the ball, perhaps thinking they could exploit the Steelers' 25th-rated run defense. Actually, their run defense is a lot better than the ranking, as the Jets discovered. Clearly, Mornhinweg has become more cautious with Smith over the past two games, perhaps because of a directive from Ryan in the aftermath of the Tennessee debacle. It worked against the Atlanta Falcons, but Smith struggled against a Pittsburgh defense that was determined to eliminate the deep strike.

Jets activate Goodson, cut Spadola

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
2:20
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The Jets made four moves Saturday to set their roster before heading to Atlanta for a Monday night game against the Falcons.

Running back Mike Goodson, coming off a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, was added to the 53-man roster -- a confirmation that he will suit up for the game. There was some doubt Friday, when he missed some practice with a tight hamstring.

The Jets also added WR Michael Campbell, previously on the practice squad.

To make room for Campbell and Goodson, the Jets released rookie WR Ryan Spadola and LB Ricky Sapp. The Spadola move came as a surprise. The Jets are taking a calculated risk by putting him on waivers for 24 hours, as they'd like to bring him back if he clears waivers. Spadola, an undrafted free agent from Lehigh, made the team after an impressive preseason.

The Jets are down to four healthy-for-sure receivers -- Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, David Nelson (signed Tuesday) and Campbell. Santonio Holmes (hamstring) hasn't been officially ruled out, but he won't play. The big question surrounds Stephen Hill (concussion), who practice on a limited basis Friday in a red, non-contact jersey, as required by league rules.

The team has yet to release its final injury report.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill practiced in a limited capacity Friday for the first time since sustaining a concussion in the loss to Tennessee last Sunday.

Hill wore a red jersey, meaning that he was not allowed to engage in any contact with his teammates. He is going through the NFL’s concussion protocol to return to the field, but has not been cleared for play yet. The Jets play Monday night in Atlanta.

Hill
“I’m not going to say I’ve been cleared to play,” Hill said, “but I am ready to play any time they give me a heads up.”

Coach Rex Ryan was glad to see Hill back on the field.

“I believe that’s the only hurdle left, so we’ll see how it goes,” Ryan said. “But yes, I was encouraged. That was a good sign.”

The Titans linebacker who tackled Hill, Michael Griffin, was fined $21,000 by the NFL on Friday. He was cited for unnecessary roughness, as well as striking a defenseless player in the head and neck area. Hill left the game immediately and said he experienced headaches until Wednesday. Since then, Hill said he’s been headache-free.

“I’m feeling good,” Hill said. “Just ready to play.”

Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said there is some concern about playing a recently-concussed receiver at full speed, even if Hill is cleared.

“Well, that’s a good point,” Mornhinweg said. “We’re not there yet. We don’t know if he’s going to play yet or not. But certainly, it comes into play. There’s no question about that on specific things that you may ask any player at any position, and certainly at receiver, there’s certain things you may or may not do.”

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