- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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CINCINNATI -- Geno Smith played "great," according to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. Obviously, he hasn't set the bar that high for his second-year quarterback. Smith wasn't great Saturday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he was far from awful. Continuing a summer-long trend, he made enough positive plays to show that he's maturing and developing a better feel for the game.
Smith played the entire first half in the Jets' 25-17 win, leading the offense to 17 points. Only 10 came against the Bengals' starting defense, including a short-field touchdown -- a 19-yard drive after a takeaway by the defense. His critics will find fault in the production, but he played with poise in the place where he played one of his worst games as a rookie.
"I had some good plays, and I had some plays where I think I could've done a lot better," said Smith, who completed 10 of 13 passes for 98 yards and an interception.
He made two throws he wishes he could have back. On the first play of the game, he missed an open David Nelson on a deep post. Later, he was intercepted by cornerback Terence Newman on a quick throw to Nelson.
Nelson turned late. Or Smith threw too soon. Pick your alibis.
Smith took the blame.
"We were both on the same page, but I was too early with the throw, and it caught him by surprise," he said. "I put that solely on me. I need to give him a better opportunity in that position."
Other than that, Smith did a nice job with his decision-making, looking for his check downs and running when no one was open. He ran four times for 20 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown on a read-option play.
Clearly, Smith will be the starting quarterback. The entire competition, if you could call it that, has been tilted in his favor. Michael Vick didn't get any work with the starters, as he was relegated to three series with the backups in the third quarter. Some might argue that Vick is a better right-now quarterback than Smith, but he hasn't received the chance to prove it.
The only question now is when, not if, Rex Ryan names him the starter. It hasn't been a stellar preseason for Smith, but he has completed 74 percent of his passes (14-for-19), with only one turnover and no sacks. His passer rating is 70.3.
Smith didn't want to get into whether he has locked up the job. He said it's up to the coaches. Asked if he believes his teammates recognize him as the starter, he said, "You have to ask them that. The intention is to work hard and put myself into the position to be the starting quarterback and to lead this team. It's up to them, whether or not they want me as the starting quarterback."