Tajh Boyd has always considered himself a gamer, one of those players that elevates his performance when the lights go on. He hopes that will be the case Saturday night in Cincinnati, where the former Clemson star is expected to make his NFL debut. The lights weren't on in Cortland, and neither was he.
The New York Jets' rookie quarterback struggled during the team's three-week stay in upstate New York, jeopardizing his chances of making the team. He's behind Matt Simms for the No. 3 job, assuming they keep three quarterbacks, and Boyd needs to show something. And soon.
"Once you go in a game, another switch is flipped," he said. "At the end of the day, I just have to go play free, and that's something I've been battling with."
Boyd, a sixth-round pick, is a work in progress. No one expected immediate results, considering the circumstances. At Clemson, he played in a spread-option offense, tailored around his ability to make plays outside the pocket. Now he's learning a highly structured West Coast offense, a transition that has resulted in some rough, rough days on the practice field.
"Obviously, there have been ups and downs throughout camp," he said. "Sometimes I feel like nobody is holding me back but me right now. I have to play with confidence and a sense of urgency, and do things I know I can do."
Boyd will get his shot against the Cincinnati Bengals. After Geno Smith and Michael Vick are done, probably in the late third or early fourth quarter, Boyd will get his chance. Simms, who played the second half in the preseason opener, isn't slated for action.
Rex Ryan, whose son, Seth, is a wide receiver at Clemson, got to know Boyd on a personal level last year. Ryan was instrumental in the decision to draft him. The scouts were impressed with his mobility, leadership and ability to throw the long ball. There haven't been too many highlights on the practice field, but Ryan suspects Boyd will fare better in the games with running plays designed for his style.
It's crunch time for the always upbeat quarterback.
"Right now, I'm doing everything I can possibly can to make this team," Boyd said. "I'm looking forward to going out there and making some things happen."