CORTLAND, N.Y. -- On the first play of the first team drill, Geno Smith took a three-step drop and zipped a short completion to Eric Decker. And so it all began -- the pseudo quarterback competition and the season that Rex Ryan expects to stretch beyond December.
On the first day of training camp, everything seemed possible for the New York Jets. It always looks and feels better when the quarterback plays well.
"I think Geno looked better than I've ever seen him," wide receiver David Nelson said Thursday.
It was only one practice, and things can change in a hurry (as we saw last summer), but the Jets swear Smith is a different player than the wide-eyed rookie who coughed up the football through much of last season. They say he looks and sounds more confident in the huddle. Nelson went so far as to say Smith "(knows) it's his team." Smith wasn't ready to go there just yet, saying, "I don't look at it like that. I love the confidence my guys have in me."
My guys? Sure sounds like he's taking ownership. Of course, Mark Sanchez kept saying the same thing last summer, and look how that turned out.
"Coming into this year, I'm a lot more confident in my reads and my footwork, and delivering the ball a lot stronger and a lot more accurately -- all good signs of progress, but we have a long way to go," Smith said. "I have a long way to go."
For the record, Smith took the first four first-team reps. In came Michael Vick. By the end of the practice, the split was 13 for Smith, four for Vick -- pretty much the ratio offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had outlined recently. For the stat geeks, Smith completed seven of 10 passes in team drills, with no turnovers.
In case you haven't noticed, this is Smith's job to lose -- even if Ryan won't put it in those words. Asked if he agrees with Nelson's assessment, that it's Smith's team, Ryan did a little spinning.
"I consider it our team," he said. "Do I consider it Geno's team? Yep. I also consider it Michael Vick's team. And my team. Everybody's team."
Barring an injury or an utter meltdown in the preseason games, Smith will be the opening-day starter. Even Vick has acknowledged the handwriting on the wall. In a way, training camp is Smith vs. Smith, not Smith vs. Vick. So far, Smith is winning. He's acting like the starter, according to Nelson.
"I see that when he's in the huddle, I see that whenever he's calling plays," Nelson said. "I see the way he has ownership and command over the offense."