New York Jets: Geno Smith

Smith 'feels a difference' in second season

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
10:00
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith said Tuesday he has already been watching film of the Oakland Raiders in anticipation of their Week 1 matchup on Sept. 7.

Smith went so far as to say the film sessions have been “pretty extensive.”

“They’ve got new players,” Smith said. “Pretty much they’ve got the same defensive coordinator [Jason Tarver], so there will be some similar things from last year. And there will be some differences, but the key thing is finding out exactly what’s changed and what’s different and then being able to go out and execute.”

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith, Rex Ryan
Ron Antonelli/Getty ImagesGeno Smith walks into Year 2 a confident quarterback under Rex Ryan.
In New York’s 37-27 victory against Oakland last season, Smith went 16-for-25 for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran five times for 52 yards -- including a long of 32 -- and a score.

Smith, 23, said he’s interested to see how much he’s gotten better with the regular season about to get underway, noting he “feels a difference” in Year 2.

Quarterbacks coach David Lee is impressed with Smith’s development.

“He has command of the offense, which he didn’t [have] a year ago,” Lee said. “He [was] coming in learning it. I’ve never coached a rookie quarterback. I’ve coached rookie quarterbacks, but not to start the season and go 16 games. Well, this guy misses two-and-half, three games of preseason. So, we come in there with he and Matt [Simms] as one and two against Tampa Bay [in Week 1], we’re holding our breathe. We’ve got two rookies here fixing to do this whole thing for 16 weeks, and I thought it was a little bit overwhelming, which is why he was so up and down through probably the first two-thirds of the season and then he settled [down].

“[The] more he played, the more confidence he got. And now he just even walks in the building with more confidence, more command. He’s not cocky, he’s a humble kid, but boy, he’s a confident quarterback right now at this point in time.”

Asked about his confidence, Smith said, “Just gaining more confidence in my teammates and the players around me has allowed me to gain more confidence in myself. Also, understanding the offense has helped as well.”

Despite his belief that Smith has improved his ball security, footwork and accuracy, Lee sees areas where his signal-caller can improve.

“Just tighten up everything, a little bit better, scramble, keeping my eyes down field a little bit longer. If I’m going to run, pump it, pump it twice, take off and run,” Lee said. “ Just putting those little things together, and we’ll be ready to go when the games start, but we’re not quite ready right now at quarterback.”

Observation Deck: New York Jets

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
9:57
PM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets signed Michael Vick to "push" Geno Smith, according to the company line. He's pushing, all right.

Vick sparked the starting offense to its only touchdown in a 13-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. Vick, who replaced Smith in the second quarter, led a 14-play, 80-yard drive in his only series with the first team. Vick's performance doesn't change the quarterback dynamic -- Smith still is the frontrunner -- but he's definitely keeping the pressure on. The rest of the offense? Ugly. It actually faced a third-and-42.

Here are some other thoughts on the Jets' first preseason game:
  • Smith (4-for-6, 33 yards) didn't do anything to hurt his chances, but he also failed to lead the offense to a touchdown in his two series. Rex Ryan said he wanted to see some production, meaning touchdowns. Smith & Co. came away with a field goal. The offense had some problems in third-and-long situations, ultimately stalling its first two drives. Smith found Eric Decker twice, connected with Jeff Cumberland on a nice 11-yard completion over the middle and ran for 10 yards on a read-option -- the highlights. There weren't any lowlights (no turnovers), but Smith didn't grab the job by the throat.
  • It was vintage Vick. He ran a little, threw a little and brought energy to the offense. He scrambled for 15 yards on a third-and-9 and converted third- and fourth-down passes to Jace Amaro and Tommy Bohanon, respectively. As expected, Vick (3-for-6, 17 yards) looked comfortable in Marty Mornhinweg's offense, seeing the entire field and following his reads. Things fell apart in his second series, but it came behind the second-team line, which struggled in pass protection. In practice, Vick has received only 20 percent of the first-team reps. It'll be interesting to see if the split changes in Week 2 of the preseason. It shouldn't; Smith needs as much work as possible.
  • The Jets' running-back depth, one of the strengths of the team, may have taken a hit. Chris Ivory suffered a rib injury in the first half and didn't return. Bilal Powell still is nursing a hamstring injury, leaving Chris Johnson as the only healthy, proven back. In his Jets debut, Johnson looked a bit rusty, frankly. He dropped a pass as the third-down back and lacked burst, rushing for only two yards on four carries. The former 2,000-yard rusher scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, cutting back on an inside run -- his signature moment. There's no reason to be alarmed. Remember, he's only seven months removed from knee surgery. Truth be told, the entire rushing attack was stuck in quick sand.
  • Biggest question mark entering camp? Cornerback. After one game, it's a bigger question mark. Dimitri Patterson didn't make anyone forget Darrelle Revis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or any of the other free-agent corners the Jets didn't sign. The well-traveled Patterson gave too much cushion on a couple of plays, allowed a 45-yard reception and was flagged for holding. This looms as a serious concern, considering the number of high-powered passing attacks on the early schedule. Dee Milliner played well, breaking up two pass plays, but you need more than one corner. Yes, the Jets are formidable up front, but opponents will spread them out and play dink-and-dunk. The first-team defense was shaky, allowing an 80-yard touchdown drive to the Colts' backups.

W2W4: Green & White scrimmage

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
11:30
AM ET
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Are you ready for some football ...

... in a semi-controlled setting in which the quarterbacks are off limits and there is no winner or loser on the scoreboard?

The New York Jets play their annual Green & White scrimmage at 7:15 p.m. ET Saturday at SUNY-Cortland. Basically, it's a glorified practice, offense versus defense, but there is live tackling and drives will be completed, giving it kind of a game feel. There will be player introductions, a halftime show (sorry, no Bruno Mars) and post-scrimmage fireworks, adding to the ambiance.

What to watch for:

Plenty of work for the starters: Rex Ryan, breaking from the usual routine, is planning to give the first units more snaps than usual. It's an interesting approach, considering they play their first preseason game in only five days, home against the Indianapolis Colts. The big offseason additions, Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and Michael Vick, are expected to play. Decker was limited Friday because of a minor hamstring issue, so that bears watching. Johnson is seven months removed from knee surgery, trying to recapture past greatness. Vick will lead the second-team offense.

Geno 2.0: The coaches have been talking up Geno Smith for months, saying he has made significant progress since the end of his rookie season. An intrasquad scrimmage hardly qualifies as a showcase, but it'll be nice to see him in a quasi-game setting, facing a good defense. We know he can throw, we know he can run. The focus will be on his decision making. Yes, he will lead the first-team offense, as he has done since Day 1 in camp.

New-look offense: With Decker and Johnson, and with a more-experienced Smith, the Jets believe they can be more balanced and explosive than last season. Of course, last year's unit didn't set the bar very high. It'll be fascinating to see how they use Johnson, who could be flexed out as a receiver in certain formations. Dude can catch; that's an under-rated aspect to his game. Prediction: Stephen Hill will make a big play; he always does. He's Mr. August. The starting offense has been inconsistent in camp, but it started to show signs of life Thursday and Friday. Let's see if it can carry the momentum into the scrimmage.

Missing rookies: The scrimmage is a great opportunity for many fans to see the draft picks in action for the first time, but some could be missing. Safety Calvin Pryor (concussion), cornerback Dexter McDougle (groin) and wide receiver Shaq Evans (shoulder) didn't practice Friday. As of Friday, Pryor hadn't been cleared for physical contact, so he's unlikely to play. Without a doubt, the rookie under the spotlight is tight end Jace Amaro, who has struggled with the offense.

Rebuilt secondary: The concern on defense is the back end, particularly the corners. Veteran addition Dimitri Patterson has been solid, but no one has jumped out, not even Dee Milliner. This is a young group, and there will be growing pains.

Jets wake-up call: Day 5

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
6:00
AM ET
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Monday is a mandatory day off for the New York Jets, per the rules of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement. They'll be back on the practice field at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday.

Let's take this opportunity to hit on the top developments over the first four days of practice:

The 'untilted' quarterback competition: For those scoring at home, Geno Smith has taken 78 percent of the first-team reps -- a total of 56, to Michael Vick's 16. This isn't news; this was expected. For the most part, both quaterbacks have performed reasonably well.

Injury report: Top draft pick Calvin Pryor, a likely starter at safety, is out indefinitely with a concussion. Tight end Jace Amaro, a second-round pick, tweaked a knee, but he should be OK. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, a sixth-round pick, didn't make it out of the first practice because of a hip injury. Veteran guard Willie Colon was activated from the physically unable to perform list. All things considered, the Jets are relatively healthy. The soft-tissue injuries that plagued them last summer haven't cropped up. That sound you hear is coach Rex Ryan knocking on wood. One potential injury, however, is jaw fatigue -- players yapping about expectations.

Nice start for the newcomers: The marquee additions on offense, wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Chris Johnson, have adapted nicely to their new surroundings. Johnson still isn't running at 100 percent, but he has participated in three of four practices -- and that's a good thing, considering his surgically repaired knee.
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets' quarterback "competition" (Rex Ryan's word) is officially underway. It's frontrunner Geno Smith versus Michael Vick, who supports Smith but considers himself an elite player.

"I still feel like I'm a premier quarterback in this league," Vick said Wednesday after reporting to training camp.

This will be a fascinating dynamic because Vick is a more accomplished player than Smith, but Smith is the likely opening-day starter. Ryan, taking the politically correct approach, said he has two starting-caliber quarterbacks. But, at some point over the next few weeks, he'll have to pick one. Ryan wouldn't give a timetable, saying a decision will be made at the "appropriate" time.

Vick, entering his 12th season, acknowledged this situation feels different because he's entering camp as the presumed backup. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said recently that Smith will get 70- to 75-percent of the first-team reps, a clear indication that it's Smith's job to lose.

"The thing that popped up when I heard that is, it's going to be very important for me to get mental reps," Vick said. "For any athlete out there in the country, when you're not getting the reps with the 1s, mental reps with the 2s are just as important. I can't lose sight of that."

Vick, who has all but conceded the job to Smith, said the key to handling the No. 2 job is finding "an inner peace. I have to find things that keep me stimulated and motivated on the football field."

On Day 1, Smith didn't make any bold statements. He said recently that he expects "big things" out of himself in 2014, but he stayed humble as he spoke to a pack of reporters outside the team's dorm. He knows the drill when it comes to positional battles.

"I mean the names are different, but honestly it doesn’t" feel different than last year, said Smith, who won the job by default last summer when Mark Sanchez was injured.

Actually, it is different. A lot different. The coaches won't be as patient with Smith when he makes mistakes, especially with Vick at the ready.

"He's head and shoulders above where he was last year, I don't think there's any doubt about that," Ryan said of Smith.

Ryan called this the "strongest quarterback situation" he's had in six years as the head coach. It's hard to dispute that.
Tags:

Geno Smith

Rex Ryan showed his new boss last season that, even when speaking softly, he still carried a big enough stick to squeeze eight wins out of a team with modest talent. The New York Jets' coach received a well-deserved contract extension.

Now, with the Jets reporting to training camp Wednesday in Cortland, New York, for Year 2 of the Ryan-John Idzik era, we start to learn a lot more about the other half of the leadership tandem, the quiet man who prefers to stay out of the spotlight.

This is Idzik's time.

[+] EnlargeMilliner
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDee Milliner is one of John Idzik's draft picks that needs to produce for the Jets.
It's impossible to evaluate a general manager after one season, especially in a rebuilding situation, but the landscape changes after two drafts and two rounds of free agency. In the NFL, that’s enough time to get a team from the 6-10 mess that Idzik inherited into the playoffs.

Idzik's predecessors, Terry Bradway in 2001 and Mike Tannenbaum in 2006, reached the postseason in their first seasons as GMs. Go back further, and you will remember that Bill Parcells made it to the AFC Championship Game in his second year as the GM/coach.

Even though Idzik is operating on a long-term plan, evidenced by his emphasis on the draft and his deliberate approach in free agency, an 0-for-2 start wouldn't look good on his résumé. He shouldn't be on the New York Mets' Sandy Alderson timeline, meaning he has to move faster than a glacier. It's just the way of the NFL.

Idzik has been around long enough to put his stamp on the team. He signed, re-signed and drafted most of the projected starters. In fact, only seven starters can be considered true holdovers from the previous administration: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Muhammad Wilkerson, David Harris, Damon Harrison, Quinton Coples and Demario Davis.

It's easy to notice they're the best guys on the team, Tannenbaum guys. Idzik needs to get some of his guys on that list. He already has Sheldon Richardson. By the end of the season, the list of top homegrowns should also include Geno Smith, Dee Milliner and Calvin Pryor. If Smith and Milliner are missing, the Jets will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, which won’t bode well for Ryan's job security.

Idzik has the Jets pointed in the right direction, and the strides they made last season can't be dismissed. But let's be honest: They overachieved. They were one of the softest 8-8 teams in history, and you can look it up. Their point differential was minus-97, the largest since the 1970 merger for any team with at least eight wins.

The talent base should be improved this season, especially with the additions of Eric Decker and Chris Johnson. Decker was Idzik's one big splurge in free agency, his one Tannenbaum-like move. Johnson and Michael Vick will be one-and-done players, worthwhile Band-Aids who won't ruin the master plan if they fizzle. The offseason proved, once again, that Idzik won't deviate from his script no matter how much salary-cap room he has at his disposal. For the record, there's about $22 million as of today.

Idzik is doing it the right way, avoiding the temptation of the quick fix. That will pay off in the long run, but there will be problems along the way. For instance: Failing to sign a top cornerback in free agency was a mistake that could be exposed early in the season, when they face several elite quarterbacks. The cornerback issue will be exacerbated if Milliner fails to develop as hoped.

The Jets believe Milliner, drafted ninth overall, will be a special player, basing much of their opinion on his strong finish. The same theory can be applied to the quarterback situation with Smith. They're placing a lot of weight on those last four games, and that can be dangerous when you consider the competition. They beat three also-rans, three teams with mediocre (at best) quarterbacks: the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.

Now, after seven months of positive mojo, the Jets can prove it wasn't a mirage. If Idzik's investments mirror the stock market, they'll be a playoff team. If it goes the other way, he'll hear the criticism, good and loud. The honeymoon is over. This is Idzik's time.

Jets: Burning questions on eve of camp

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
4:15
PM ET
You know the drill. The New York Jets' training camp opens Wednesday, which means there are questions. We've got answers.

1. When will Rex Ryan name his starting quarterback?

Smith
Technically, we've been waiting 11 months, but that is an old story and this is no time to look back. The conventional approach is to name the starter after the third preseason game (Aug. 22 against the New York Giants), but it wouldn't be a surprise if Ryan moves up the timetable. It all depends on Geno Smith, the front-runner. If he plays lights-out in the first two games and gets the nod over Michael Vick versus the Giants, it will be a fait accompli. Memo to Ryan: The health of your quarterback is more important than the Snoopy Trophy.

2. Are there any injured players that bear watching as camp opens?

Yes, three in particular: Running back Chris Johnson (knee), right guard Willie Colon (knee/biceps) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee). Obviously, Johnson's health is a big key to the Jets' season, so you can count on his surgically repaired knee being a topic of conversation throughout camp. The plan is to put him on a modified practice schedule, building toward the Sept. 7 opener. It will be interesting to see how they use him in the exhibitions. Johnson likes his touches; he's had anywhere from 19 to 33 carries in the preseason over the course of his career. It wouldn't be a shock if Colon and/or Barnes begin camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list as they work their way back into shape. It will be a breath of fresh air, not having to chronicle the "will-he-or-won't-he?" whims of Santonio Holmes and his damaged wheel.

3. Is there strength in numbers at wide receiver?

Decker
The Jets have seven receivers with NFL experience, including marquee newcomer Eric Decker, plus three draft picks. Not one of them, however, is a true game-changer. You can still win with solid, dependable receivers (look at the Seattle Seahawks), and the Jets have three in Decker, Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson. You will read a lot this summer about Stephen Hill, who almost certainly will make the all-Cortland team, as usual. The question, as usual, is whether he can sustain it for the regular season. If you are looking for a dark horse, keep an eye on veteran Greg Salas, who impressed the coaches in minicamp.

4. Which returning starters are in danger of losing their jobs?

Not counting Smith, who will be "pushed" by Vick (that is the oft-used company line), the players facing the most competition are Colon, tight end Jeff Cumberland and safety Dawan Landry. In each case, there is a young player in the picture battling for playing time. Chances are, the tight-end situation will be a time-share between Cumberland and second-round pick Jace Amaro, whose role will hinge on how quickly he can absorb the offense. Based on minicamp, it will take some time.

5. Is there anything to worry about on defense?

The secondary is the No. 1 concern. This probably will be the youngest defensive backfield of the Ryan era, with a second-year cornerback (Dee Milliner), a rookie safety (Calvin Pryor), a third-year safety (Antonio Allen) and a rookie cornerback (Dexter McDougle) projected to play prominent roles. Can you say "growing pains"? If veteran corner Dimitri Patterson gets hurt, which he tends to do, it will put a strain on this rebuilding unit.

6. What's the deal with all the playoff chatter? Is the optimism justified?

Sure, why not? 'Tis the season for happy talk. The Jets finished 8-8, added some talent and lost only two players that played more than 500 snaps last season -- right tackle Austin Howard and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who stunk. Expressing confidence is fine as long as it doesn't cloud their minds with unrealistic expectations.

Jaworski: Geno Smith ranks No. 30, but ...

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
12:30
PM ET
Rough offseason for Geno Smith in terms of quarterback rankings.

A few weeks ago, an ESPN.com survey of 26 NFL insiders (coaches, executives, etc.) ranked Smith as the worst projected starting quarterback in the league. How EJ Manuel finished ahead of him, I'm not sure, but whatever. The latest ranking comes from ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who, in his annual Big Board, rated Smith 30th out of 32 quarterbacks, ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick (Houston Texans) and Matt Cassel (Minnesota Vikings). Smith certainly has more upside than a few of the players ranked above him, but, based on overall performance last season, I don't think Jaws' spot for Smith is too far off.

Smith
Despite the low ranking, Jaworski gave Smith a positive scouting report. Appearing on ESPN's "Mike & Mike" radio show on Monday morning, Jaworski said of Smith:

“After I went through the throws of Geno Smith last year, I saw a guy who got better every single week. The last quarter of the season, I thought Geno Smith looked like a much more polished NFL quarterback. And the people I am now speaking to in the Jets camp say that Geno Smith is clearly ahead of Michael Vick. So it looks like the improvement in Geno Smith -- the great job that [offensive coordinator] Marty Mornhinweg did with his development -- leads me to believe that he will be the starting quarterback Week One.”

Yes, Smith is clearly ahead of Vick. As Mornhinweg stated a few weeks ago, Smith will get about 70 to 75 percent of the first-team reps in training camp, which means he should nail down the starting job with a competent performance. If Smith starts losing reps to Michael Vick, we'll know the quarterback landscape is changing.
Geno SmithGrant Halverson/Getty ImagesGeno Smith expects "big things" from himself in 2014, and the Jets will need that to be successful.
Geno Smith heard Michael Vick's name more than a few times last season in the New York Jets' offensive meeting room. Occasionally, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg used Vick as an example when explaining to his quarterbacks how he wanted a particular play to be run.

The name-dropping was understandable. After all, there was history between Mornhinweg and Vick. Smith soaked it up, taking copious notes as he navigated a winding rookie season.

This season, the real Vick, not the ghost, will be sitting alongside Smith in the meeting room. That can be a good thing -- Smith can learn straight from the source -- or a bad thing if he becomes unnerved by Vick's presence. If Smith is bothered by the situation, he's not letting on. He sounds like a proven veteran, not a second-year quarterback who endured one of the worst statistical seasons in recent times.

"I don't want to make any statements or put anything out there, but once the season comes, I mean, I expect big things," Smith told ESPN.com in a recent interview. "I believe fully in myself. I have the utmost confidence in myself. I know I have the ability to play in this league."

There are doubters, to be sure, but Smith's conviction was steeled by his encouraging finish last season. His teammates and coaches saw it in the offseason, with the decisiveness he showed in the huddle in spring practices and the self-confidence he demonstrated in the locker room. That was one of the biggest takeaways from the offseason: the New Geno.

It has to be a new Geno if the Jets hope to snap their three-year playoff drought. Right now, the Jets have eight-win talent, but that modest number jumps to double digits if Smith improves as much as they believe he can.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith, Michael Vick
Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY SportsWill Michael Vick's presence be a good thing or a bad thing for Geno Smith?
"We're not playing yet -- we're not in the stadium yet, people aren't in the stands -- but Geno is a strongly improved player at this point," quarterbacks coach David Lee said.

Thousands of words will be written and spoken this summer about Eric Decker and Chris Johnson, the Jets' marquee additions, but 2014 is all about Smith, whom the Jets expect to be their season-opening starter.

They say he's stronger and faster. As part of his offseason regimen, Smith trained with a speed parachute, proudly texting photos of himself to Lee.

They say his footwork now comes naturally. A year ago, he was so unfamiliar with the Jets' offense that he counted steps in his head.

They say his command of Mornhinweg's system has improved to the point where he's self-sufficient. As a rookie, Smith leaned heavily on center Nick Mangold, who did more hand-holding than a lovestruck teenager.

"It's gotten away from me telling him exactly what to do," Mangold said. "Now it's more of a two-way discussion."

They say Smith is more of a leader than last year. Let's be clear: He's not a fiery, in-your-face kind of quarterback, but there are indications that he wants to make it his team.

In March, when he learned of the Decker signing on ESPN's Bottom Line, Smith immediately texted general manager John Idzik, asking for Decker's number. He reached out to his newest receiver, welcoming him to the team, discussing places to live in New Jersey and asking Decker about his favorite pass routes.

Smith tried to do that with every newcomer, even draft picks, taking ownership in the team. A year ago, he kept to himself, trying to fit in.

"I didn't want to come in as that guy who thinks he knows it all," Smith said. "I feel like I had to earn my stripes, and I feel like I've done that to a certain extent.

"But I'm still learning, still growing. I still listen to the vets, but it's a different level of leadership from me. Last year, I was a vocal guy when I needed to be, but it wasn't as much as I'm going to show this year."

Smith threw 21 interceptions, and that was a source of frustration for coaches and players alike, but they maintained their support because they respected his work ethic and mental toughness. No matter how bad it got, he refused to fold.

"He went through everything a rookie quarterback could go through," guard Willie Colon said. "Now he's like, 'All right, it's time for me to step up.' He's embracing the challenge. We all know Geno is feisty. He's strong-minded. He has the ability to fight. We believe in him."

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsAs a rookie, Geno Smith passed for 3,046 yards with 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Former Jets quarterback Brady Quinn, a member of the team for the first half of the season, marveled at Smith's resilience. He pointed to the early-season win over the Atlanta Falcons, when Smith rallied the Jets in the final two minutes on a Monday night stage -- one week after an absolute stinker against the Tennessee Titans.

"Every time Geno felt challenged, whether it was in the press or by anyone else, he usually responded and played a great game," Quinn said. "I think he had five come-from-behind wins. Those are powerful statements."

Quinn came away impressed with Smith, who he believes has "a ton of arm talent." Unfortunately, there wasn't much talent around that arm, resulting in one of the worst offenses in the league. That should change with Johnson in the backfield and Decker on the perimeter.

It's all there for Smith in Year 2, but there still are plenty of critics. In a recent ESPN.com poll of 25 personnel executives and coaches, he was rated the worst starting quarterback in the league.

Do the Jets know something that no one else does? Maybe they do. Mornhinweg and Lee are widely respected offensive minds, so their opinions carry weight. Their jobs, along with that of Rex Ryan, could be riding on Smith. If he backslides or fails to show improvement, it'll be a costly setback for the organization.

Smith's biggest challenge is reading defenses, according to people who have studied him on tape. He was a one-read quarterback at West Virginia, so it was a difficult transition to Mornhinweg's version of the West Coast offense, which is predicated on multiple reads and exact timing.

There were long stretches last season in which Smith showed questionable instincts for the position, making poor decision after poor decision. The Jets expect that to get better with experience.

The new variable for Smith is the Vick factor. This is a different ballgame for Smith, who didn't have to worry last season about losing his job. Even though Vick claims he will embrace the mentor role, he's a direct threat to Smith. One or two bad games, and the masses will be screaming for a change.

You could certainly argue that Vick, 34, is better than Smith and deserves a fair shot at the starting job, but the powers-that-be have decided to stack the competition in Smith's favor, making it his job to lose. They won't hand it to him. He'll have to earn it, staving off a player he grew up admiring. It's a fascinating dynamic, especially with the Mornhinweg factor. Smith is battling his role model for a role.

"I don't feel any pressure at all," Smith said. "Maybe, in the outside world, people might think that way. If I do hit a rough patch, I fully expect Mike to pick me up. If it was the other way around, I'd do the same for him because that's the way we are. We're friends and we're teammates."

They're close. Soon, we'll find out if it's too close for comfort.

While we were on vacation ...

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
10:30
AM ET
The three-week respite is over, and it's time to get back to football. Before we look ahead to Wednesday, when the New York Jets report to training camp in Cortland, New York, let's take a look back at what I missed over the last three weeks.

No news is good news: It was uneventful for the Jets, which, of course, is every coach's dream for the slow time before camp. There were no arrests and no off-the-field injuries (none that have come to light, anyway.) Nowadays, you can't take this stuff for granted. The Buffalo Bills (season-ending knee injury to LB Kiko Alonso) and the Baltimore Ravens (multiple arrests), for example, were in the headlines for the wrong reasons, creating problems and distractions. For Rex Ryan, it was blissfully quiet.

Smith
Happy talk: The optimism is flowing like Gatorade, which is what you'd expect in July. In recent interviews, Geno Smith said the Jets are capable of a Super Bowl run and Ryan all but predicted a postseason berth. Love the confidence (shades of the old Rex), but I think we need to tap the brakes just a bit, especially with the Super Bowl talk. The Jets are headed in the right direction, and they should be thinking playoffs after an 8-8 season (it's the next step, right?), but let's keep it real. They're still looking up at the New England Patriots and at least a handful of other teams in the AFC.

Andre the Jet?: I find it interesting that, whenever a star player becomes available (or might become available), there's a mad rush to see if the Jets are interested. The recent rumor involved Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, who is unhappy and may want out. First of all, I'd be surprised if the Texans trade him. If they decide to put him on the block, the Jets won't be interested -- at least that's the current feeling in the organization. Remember, John Idzik is the general manager, not Mike Tannenbaum, who was a big-name hunter. The Jets don't do business that way anymore. Idzik signed two free-agent receivers and drafted three others, so he's in no rush to junk his handiwork by trading for a 33-year-old receiver making $10 million a year.

Ah, memories: In case you missed it, ESPN.com conducted a fan survery during the break, determining the most memorable play for every team. By an overwhelming margin, the fans (not media) voted the Butt Fumble the Jets' most memorable play. In an NCAA-style bracket, the Butt Fumble lost in the first round to the Patriots' top play, the "Tuck Rule" game. Once again, the fans voted. But that's ancient history now. A new season is upon us, a time to create new memories and erase painful ones from the past.

Training camp preview: Quarterback

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
8:00
AM ET
Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, which starts July 23.

Position: quarterback

Smith
Projected starter: Geno Smith.

Projected reserves: Michael Vick, Tajh Boyd.

Notable on the bubble: Matt Simms.

Player to watch: Obviously, it's Smith. He'll be under a daily microscope, with everyone -- coaches, media, fans -- looking to see if he has improved as much as the Jets said he has throughout the spring. He'll get about 70 to 75 percent of the first-team reps in practice, which means two things: The coaches are planning to structure training camp in a way that will allow Smith to claim the starting job if he performs at a competent level. But instead of giving him the typical share of starter reps (roughly 90 percent), they're hedging their bet, trying to get Vick ready in case Smith flops. It's a delicate balancing act, but there shouldn't be any issues as long as Smith doesn't blow it.

Top storyline: The Smith-Vick dynamic will be a fascinating watch. Smith has a great deal of respect for Vick, certainly more than he had for Mark Sanchez, but he also knows Vick represents a legitimate threat to his job. Vick already is popular among his new teammates, and his candid style will make him a media favorite as well. How will young Geno handle that?

Training camp will be a success if ... Reporters aren't asking Rex Ryan before the final preseason game why he hasn't named a starting quarterback. If they are, it means the Jets are waffling. Worse, it could mean there's an injury to consider (shades of last summer). The best-case scenario, from the team's perspective, is that Smith plays so well that the announcement is anticlimactic. If that's the case, Ryan could reveal his choice before the third game. Technically, Smith hasn't been named anything even though he has 16 starts on his résumé.

Wild card: General manager John Idzik. We know how he feels about competition. We also know how that backfired last preseason -- i.e., Sanchez's pointless injury. Idzik should have a minimal role in the quarterback decision, leaving it up to the coaches.

By the numbers: Smith has to do a better job under a heavy pass rush. When pressured, he completed only 28.7 percent of his passes (27-for-94) with one touchdown, five interceptions and a 28.5 passer rating, which ranked 38th in the league, per ESPN Stats & Information.

Jets' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
12:00
PM ET
Joe Namath won Super Bowl III 45 years ago, but he remains the most recognizable name and face in New York Jets history -- a testament to his star power and a commentary on the quarterback position. Nearly a half-century later, they're still looking for the next Namath, a true franchise quarterback who can elevate the franchise to a championship level.

Smith
That is the biggest key to the Jets' success over the next three seasons. The current hope is Geno Smith, who may or may not be the answer. He's 8-8 as a starter and shows intriguing arm talent and mobility, but he has yet to prove that he can be a consistent winner in the league. The Jets expect (hope?) him to take a giant step in 2014, surrounding him with better talent than last year. A lot is riding on Smith, because if he flat lines or regresses, they will be back to square one, looking to draft Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston or another young gun next spring -- along with a handful of other quarterback-needy teams.

Everything is set up for Smith to succeed, right down to the Jets' salary-cap plan. With only $1.9 million in quarterback money committed to 2015, a big reason why they have a ton of cap room in future years, they have the flexibility to give him a mega-contract in 2016. If it's justified, of course. That would complete general manager John Idzik's grand rebuilding plan. He already has a good, young defense with a handful of potential stars, and there are a few skill-position players that make you think the offense can improve. The missing piece is the quarterback.

Call it a curse. The Jets thought they had their franchise quarterback a decade ago, but Chad Pennington's career was ruined by shoulder injuries. After one year of Brett Favre, a move that showed their desperation, they drafted Mark Sanchez. He was anointed as the new golden boy, but his career veered off the rails after two promising seasons. That brought them to Smith, who carries the torch for the quarterback-starved franchise.

Sunday notes: Geno the scrambler

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
5:00
AM ET
Cleaning out the notebook on the New York Jets:

1. The Geno plan: Geno Smith caught teams by surprise at the end of last season, running with more frequency than before. He carried 31 times for 186 yards and three touchdowns over the final four games, accounting for roughly half his total production. Clearly, the change in strategy helped him become a better quarterback, an upswing that made the Jets buy in for at least another year. But now, as one opposing player noted, defenses will be better prepared to stop Geno the scrambler.

"I think he'll be better this year, but the other thing is, every team will have had the opportunity to watch 16 games and break him down," Tennessee Titans CB Jason McCourty told me last week at a charity golf tournament on Long Island.

McCourty, who faced Smith last season (a brutal day for the Jets' QB) and will see him again in December, makes a good point. After studying him in the offseason, teams will scheme up ways to keep him in the pocket. They were unprepared for it late last year because he had shown no inclination to run, which frustrated the Jets' coaches at times. Facts are facts: When Smith runs, the offense runs better. The Jets were 6-1 when Smith had five or more carries and 6-0 when he scored a touchdown.

Opponents will go to school on the final four games, count on it.

2. Buying QB insurance: Belated thoughts on Marty Mornhinweg's comment that Smith will get 70 to 75 percent of the first-team reps in training camp: It shows that, as Michael Vick noted on more than one occasion, it's not an open competition. At the same time, the percentage indicates the Jets aren't all-in with Smith. They're hedging their bet, giving Vick one out of every four reps to get him ready -- just in case. Normally, a veteran starter gets about 90 percent of the reps.

3. Anything you can do ... : DT Sheldon Richardson, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year for 2013, said in a recent interview that rookie S Calvin Pryor has the goods to match his accomplishment. When I asked Pryor his reaction to Richardson's raising-the-bar remarks, he didn't back down one bit.

"When it comes down to it, that's one of the goals I have in the back of my head," the Jets' first-round pick said. "I'll definitely try to fill his shoes."

In case you're wondering, no team has produced back-to-back winners in the 47-year history of the award. In 1980, two members of the Atlanta Falcons' defense split the award, Buddy Curry and Al Richardson.

4. Home bodies: There was some talk about the Jets having dual practices with the Cincinnati Bengals during the run-up to their Aug. 16 preseason game, but the Jets have decided to remain in Cortland, N.Y., for that week. From what I hear, there wasn't too much disappointment in the locker room about skipping the Cincy trip.

5. The joy of Rex: I've heard a lot of players over the years talk about why they enjoy playing for Rex Ryan, but I was particularly interested in listening to Dimitri Patterson, who came from a place -- the Miami Dolphins -- where there was an obvious disconnect between players and coaches.

"Rex gives off this positive energy that spreads around," Patterson told me. "That's why the guys played so hard for him toward the end of the year. What stands out to me is he knows how to put his players in a positive space, mentally."

Maybe Phil Jackson isn't the only Zen master in New York.

6. Michael Vick, cont.: In a sitdown last week, I asked Vick to name his greatest career accomplishment. He thought for a moment.

"I think my greatest accomplishment in my career was being such a young quarterback and having the guile to go into Green Bay in 2002, being a second-year player and making history, basically," he said, referring to the Falcons' playoff upset -- the first road team to win a postseason game at Lambeau Field. "Going in with confidence and winning that football game was I think my greatest accomplishment."

It was a great win, to be sure, but I don't think anything short of a championship can satisfy a "greatest accomplishment" question for 12 years.

7. Farewell to an original: One of the original New York Titans, guard Bob Mischak, died Thursday at the age of 81. He began his career with the New York Giants, but he'll be remembered in Jets/Titans history as the first player to receive all-star recognition. He was the only member of the Titans named to the AFL all-star team in 1960, the franchise's first year. He won three Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders, and he also coached in Italy and London. That's what you call a full life.

8. Cro the Cardinal: In a post on Instagram, former Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie mocks his critics, saying he ran two sub-4.4 times in the 40. If we write about it, he'll find a way to rip us for misquoting him.

9. He's not Mike Westhoff: Sensed a little edge in Thomas McGaughey's voice when he was asked about the scheme differences between him and his predecessor, Ben Kotwica, and his predecessor's predecessor, Mike Westhoff.

"I’m not Mike Westhoff. I’m not going to try to be Mike Westhoff," said McGaughey, who was hired in February to coach the special teams. "My name is Thomas McGaughey, Jr. and I can be the best me that I can possibly be, and that’s where it stops. Mike Westhoff was a hell of a coach, is a hell of a coach, and he had a great career. Ben was a great coach in his own right. But I’m me. I’m not going to try to be anybody else. I’m not going to try to act like anybody else. I’m going to be Thomas Ray McGaughey, Jr."

All right, then ...

10. Vacation time: I'll be shutting it down for the next three weeks, but make sure you stay locked to our Jets team page. The blog will be populated with interesting features, starting this coming week with another edition of the AFC East "Four Downs" segment -- four team reporters tackling hot issues as camp approaches. The following week, we'll roll out our "Most Memorable Play" series across the league, which is sure to generate debate. After that, we'll start our daily position previews for training camp, which starts July 23. Until then, I'm chilling.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets wrapped up minicamp -- and the offseason -- with a 90-minute practice Thursday in a light rain. A few takeaways:

Smith
1. Quarterback hiccups: One day after his coaches lavished praise upon him for a terrific offseason, Geno Smith ended on a down note, throwing two interceptions in team drills. One was an ill-advised throw, a pass into double coverage. He was looking for Eric Decker, who was covered by CB Dee Milliner, and it was picked off by rookie S Calvin Pryor. Later, Smith (2-for-6 in team drills) was intercepted by Milliner on a deep ball that went off the hands of Decker. It's important to keep this in perspective. Two turnovers on the final day of minicamp doesn't change anything. As Marty Mornhinweg indicated Wednesday, it's Smith's job to lose. Michael Vick was 2-for-7, with a couple of overthrows.

2. Young ball hawks: Turnovers are always a good news-bad news story in practice. The good news is that the secondary, which produced very few big plays last season, came up big. In addition to Pryor and Milliner, rookie CB Dexter McDougle made a big play, intercepting Vick in a 7-on-7 drill. (Vick seemed upset; there might have been a miscommunication with WR Jeremy Kerley). Afterward, Rex Ryan praised McDougle as one of the standouts in minicamp. This will be the youngest secondary of the Ryan era. The upside is the improved team speed on the back end; the downside is the lack of experience, which will inevitably lead to mental errors.

3. Another Hill to climb: WR Stephen Hill, who could be fighting for his roster spot, finished with a terrific practice. This was a positive offseason for Hill, who needed a jolt after a second straight disappointing season. He worked with the starting base offense, with David Nelson replacing him in some three-receiver packages. Nelson, too, looked sharp, hauling in two completions from Smith. Unlike past years, the Jets actually have some depth at receiver. It'll be interesting to see which players separate from the pack in training camp.

4. Dawan is da man: Veteran S Dawan Landry became the forgotten man in recent weeks, especially with Pryor and Antonio Allen working exclusively with the first team. After practice, Ryan tossed a bouquet to Landry, mentioning him as one of the standouts in minicamp. Ryan also revealed that Landry won an "Iron Jet" award for his exploits in the conditioning program, noting that he reported to the offseason program in superior condition. Funny how that works; they draft a safety in the first round and the aging incumbent shows up looking better than ever.

5. Attendance report: LB David Harris (hamstring tightness) and TE Jeff Cumberland (undisclosed) sat out. As expected, RB Chris Ivory (ankle) didn't participate. With Chris Johnson (knee) also out, Bilal Powell and Alex Green had busy days.

6. Have a nice summer: The offseason program is over. The team won't be together again until training camp. Reporting day is July 23 in Cortland, New York.

Geno Smith to get 75 percent of camp reps

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
6:40
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets might as well come out and say, "We expect Geno Smith to be our opening-day quarterback." They won't, of course, because that is not how it's done in Idzik World. But offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg came close Wednesday, saying his plan is to give Smith 70 to 75 percent of the first-team reps in training camp.

Smith
Michael Vick will get the other 25 to 30 percent of the reps, meaning he won't have much of a chance to outplay Smith. Not that we needed more evidence, but Mornhinweg's plan confirms that it's not an open competition. Mornhinweg cautioned that the plan could change, but he made it quite clear his job is to get Smith ready for Sept. 7 against the Oakland Raiders. He has been consistent with that message since March.

"Look, here's my job: It's my responsibility -- my duty, really ... I've got to continue to progress the young quarterback that's got 16 games under his belt -- that has to happen," Mornhinweg said. "And then, at the same time, we just have to get Michael Vick playing at the high level that he played at in the past, within this system. So he needs some reps."

Therein lies the challenge. In the old days, when there were two-a-days, this wouldn't have been a problem. Now, in the current NFL, reps are at a premium in training camp. In case you're wondering, Smith and Mark Sanchez worked on a 50-50 split last summer, when it was a true open competition.

General manager John Idzik, addressing reporters for the first time since the draft, spoke in generalities regarding the quarterback situation. He said, "It's competitive." Asked about Vick's recent claims that it's not an open competition, Idzik said, "It may be read different ways, but we're all on the same page."

Meanwhile, the Jets are tickled by Smith's progress.

"We're still going to have ups and downs," Mornhinweg said, "but I suspect Geno will play at a high level more consistently."

Quarterbacks coach David Lee said Smith is stronger and faster than a year ago. During the winter, Lee said he received texts from Smith, photos of him running up and down hills in Florida with a parachute attached to his back. (Wait, there are hills in Florida?) Lee said Smith is making quicker decisions with the ball, adding, "The ball is coming out of his hands so much faster than it has been in the past."

SPONSORED HEADLINES