Friday, August 8, 2014
Geno Smith vs. Michael Vick: Status quo
By Rich Cimini
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's still Geno Smith and Michael Vick, in that order, for the New York Jets. There were no competition-tilting developments, no spectacular plays for either quarterback Thursday night in the preseason opener. But there's your story, especially from the Smith angle: He didn't do anything great, but he also didn't suffer any "Oh no, Geno" moments that he had in 2013. And that's progress for the Jets because, a year ago, they watched with horrified expressions as Mark Sanchez opened the preseason with a pick-six on a screen pass.
The most definitive statement anyone can make after the Jets' 13-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts is that Vick is keeping the pressure on Smith, the presumptive starter. Vick led the starting offense to a touchdown, and Smith didn't, so maybe the anti-Geno crowd can try to turn that into a groundswell of Vick support. At this point, that would be a reach. This remains Smith's job to lose. On opening night, he didn't do anything to lose it. Even Vick acknowledged that, saying he doesn't think he will be rewarded with additional first-team reps in practice.
Geno Smith earned praise from coach Rex Ryan for his ball security during Thursday's game.
"No, I don't expect that," Vick said. "I think the most important thing is to continue to build on what we've created, building blocks on the foundation. We can't regress."
Smith started the game, played two series (11 plays) and put a field goal on the board. His stat line (4-for-6, 33 yards) doesn't matter, really, because the most important number for him was zero turnovers. That can't be overstated, coming off a 25-turnover season. He was under duress at times, most notably on a third-down play from the Colts 33-yard line, but he threw the ball away instead of taking a sack or forcing a pass into coverage. Maybe, just maybe, that one little play is a sign of maturity.
"We were in field goal range, so you just want to keep points on the board," Smith said.
The Smith-led offense failed to score a touchdown, and that makes two weeks in a row (if you count last weekend's intrasquad scrimmage), but this wasn't a train-wreck performance by any means. Coach Rex Ryan praised Smith, saying he played "extremely well." If Ryan wasn't satisfied, he wouldn't have removed Smith after only two series. Sure, he wanted to get the ball in the end zone, but he saw enough for one game. Naturally, next week they need to see more.
"I thought he did a great job," Ryan said of Smith. "He stepped up in the pocket a couple of times and protected the ball. I'm really pleased. I'm also pleased with Mike as well."
Vick received a rousing ovation when he entered the game -- as rousing as it gets in a half-empty stadium in the preseason -- and he gave the fans a few moments to cheer. Basically, he did what he's been doing for more than a decade, running faster than the defensive guys. He scrambled for 19 yards, including a 15-yard dash on a third-and-9. In his only series with the starters, he orchestrated a 14-play, 80-yard drive, ending with a 1-yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson. He hit a third-down pass and hit one on fourth down, too, looking very much like the savvy vet.
For the first time since training camp opened, Vick got more first-team reps than Smith. It's interesting, but don't read too much into that.
"I felt all right. It could've been better," said Vick, who completed three of six passes for 17 yards. "I wanted to get some throws down the field, but unfortunately, that didn't happen. So we'll see what happens next week. There's always next week."
Next week, the Jets go to Cincinnati, where you'd expect Smith to start and play the entire first half. The Geno Plan should continue. They haven't reached the point of no return, but it's approaching.