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6 Noteworthy Jets at Today's Practice

Posted Jul 25, 2014

WR Stephen Hill Puts Up Some Big Plays in Another Promising Training Camp Start

The temps may be in the mid-70s in central New York so far this week, but Stephen Hill is having another hot summer.

Of course, the summers haven't been the problem for the third-year wideout, with knee injuries cutting into his production and playing time his first two seasons. But he's feeling and looking very frisky again this training camp.

"It's amazing, man, just having another chance to play. Everything's just coming together," Hill told me after this morning's second practice at SUNY Cortland. "Basically that's because it's better to have your offensive coordinator come back for another year. I'm understanding the offense more. I can play fast because once I know it, I can definitely play fast."

And starting his second summer in Marty Mornhinweg's offense, Hill put up some nice plays today. He had a beautiful two-hand, over-the-shoulder grab after some hand-fighting with a DB for a long gainer in skeleton drills.




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Then Hill came up with a big play following a wrinkle that head coach Rex Ryan is doing at the end of this year's camp practices. Ryan calls the team together and addresses them after the final play of team drills, then sends them back out for several more series of two-minute drills before the actual end of practice.

On the first series, from the defense's 40 with 18 seconds left and the offense trailing, 17-15, Geno Smith fired his first pass to Hill, sitting open in the middle of the zone. Hill made a secure grab, then turned and made it to the 18 before being touched down. Next came a Geno spike, then Nick Folk drove the 35-yard "game-winner."

"That's a big add-on to our practices," Hill said. "We want to make sure we complete the catch and get into good field position for that last kick. That's what we did last year at Atlanta."

Indeed, it was a Smith-to-Hill 12-yarder that got the game-winning field goal drive off and flying against the Falcons last Oct. 7. Hill's intent is to keep those big plays coming with a breakout third season.

Here are five more noteworthy players at today's practice:

Hitting the Ground Running

TE Jeff Cumberland arrived at camp a day later than his teammates due to personal reasons but stepped right into the fray with several nice cuts and catches in "skelly" and team drills. He, too, gives the Mornhinweg system kudos for allowing him to pick up where he left off last year and in the offseason.

"Like today, I hadn't been able to look at my playbook for a couple of weeks," he said. "But since I've been in the system, I was able to just come out here and, every play he called, I knew exactly what to do."

Old Reliable in the Middle

David Harris may not be known as the best pass-coverage middle linebacker in the NFL, but he has always had a knack for making some big plays against opposing QBs. Today in team drills Smith was trying to find a receiver over the middle but Harris stepped up, swatted Geno's pass several feet in the air, then gathered it in on the way down for the pick.

Harris has seven pro INTs, all in the past five years. Among his victims were Tom Brady in the 2010 playoffs and Michael Vick in '11 at Philadelphia.

Giddyup on Punt Returns

Among the Jets showing some nice punt-return bursts were Jacoby Ford and Eric Decker. Ford's speed had been most on display in the past on kickoff returns his first two seasons with the Raiders, although he returned his first nine pro punts last year for an 8.6-yard average for the Silver & Black.

We wouldn't think Decker, being in line for major plays in the offense, would be dropping back under punts, but the former Bronco coincidentally also has nine pro punt returns over the last three years for an eye-popping 17.4 average, which included a touchdown return in the 2011 opener against Ford's Raiders.

Babin's First Day

Jason Babin was noteworthy not for his play but just for the fact that he is now signed, sealed and delivered and actually wearing a Jets uniform (No. 58 for those scoring at home). "You know, there's a big learning curve," the 11th-year pass rusher said afterwards. "It wasn't as fast as I wanted it to be, but that's to be expected."

More uniform dominoes fell as Babin wound up with the number he has worn in his pro career only for the past 21 games in 2012-13 with the Jaguars. LB Troy Davis moved from 58 to 59 and LB A.J. Edds downshifted from 59 to 47 in green (FB Chad Young remains 47 in white).

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