June 17, 2014 | 7:25pm
Stephen Hill catches a pass during practice last week.Photo: Bill Kostroun
Stephen Hill swears he tunes out the criticism.
The third-year Jets wide receiver said he pays no attention to the critics who call him a bust, say he can’t catch or question whether he ever will be a productive NFL receiver.
“Whatever people say, that’s their opinion,” Hill said. “I’ve got to go out there and run the route and catch the ball. It’s all on me. I’m basically my biggest critic.”
Hill has become a popular target for Jets fans after two disappointing seasons. He hasbattled knee injuries andinconsistency and struggled to live up to the expectations of a second-round pick in the 2012 draft out of Georgia Tech.
Hill has just 45 catches for 594 yards and four touchdowns in the two seasons. Both have ended with him on injured reserve thanks to balky knees.
“They didn’t go as I planned, of course,” Hill said. “I planned to do even more than I did, but the injuries were a problem. If I didn’t have those, it was just learning. That’s basically what it really was, a learning curve the last two years. I definitely should be able to break that and get on to it.”
The Jets handed Hill a starting job in his first two years, but this season he has to fight for a roster spot. The Jets added wide receivers Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford in free agency then drafted Jalen Saunders, Shaq Evans and Quincy Enunwa. David Nelson, Jeremy Kerley and Clyde Gates are back from last season. The only receivers who are sure to make the team are Decker and Kerley. Everyone else is battling for roster spots and playing time.
Stephen Hill talks about his offseason with reporters on Tuesday.Photo: Bill Kostroun
Coach Rex Ryan seemed reluctant to discuss Hill when asked about him Tuesday, but said Hill knows he is going to have to win a job.
“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. He knows there’s nothing given. Nothing’s assured about guys’ roles right now. He knows the competition is on him.”
Hill is just 23 years old, so there still is time for him to develop. The key will be staying healthy. He had knee surgery two years ago then was sidelined last year when his left knee continued to swell. Hill spent this offseason working with doctors to strengthen the knee and the muscles around it. He said he feels they have solved the problem.
“Right now I definitely feel 100 percent,” Hill said. “I don’t have any issues.”
Hill has looked impressive during OTAs and the first day of the team’s mini-camp on Tuesday. While many of the receivers, including Decker, had some bad drops, Hill made plays all over the field. The nicest play of the day was a deep pass on which he beat cornerback Dimitri Patterson.
“Stephen’s looked good so far,” wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal said. “He’s healthy. His body control has been good. He’s been catching the ball well. He’s caught some balls contested in traffic. It’s a very good start.”
It is now or never for Hill. He said this year is no different than any other, but it is clear the Jets are running out of patience and want to see results.
“Every year is critical,” Hill said. “I fight for my job every day, every single day. That’s every day.”