New York Jets: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 4 NYG at NYJ

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A year ago, the New York Jets' quarterback situation came unraveled in the Snoopy Bowl. Geno Smith fumbled his big chance and Mark Sanchez -- the presumptive starter -- wrecked his shoulder because coach Rex Ryan put him in a bad situation. Hello, chaos.

Everything went the opposite way Friday night, which is to say it went the right way for the Jets. Smith, no longer a nervous wreck, was poised and confident in the Jets' 35-24 loss to the Giants. It was his best outing of the summer, by far. This time, Ryan didn't botch anything; he actually solidified his quarterback position, announcing after the game that -- no drum roll necessary -- Smith will be the opening day starter.

There was an inverted symmetry to the night. Instead of losing a starter, as they did last summer in the Snoopy Bowl, the Jets gained one, if only symbolically. Don't underestimate the importance of quarterback stability. It's the most important position in the sport -- always will be -- and the Jets are way ahead of last year because they can prepare for the season knowing they have the right guy in place.

Smith didn't win the job with his 9-for-14, 137-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Giants. He didn't win it last week, either. In truth, he won it last Dec. 29, in Miami, where he ended his rookie season on the upswing. He parlayed a solid December into the pole position for the 2014 quarterback race. The team brass didn't say it publicly, but it decided to make him the preferred candidate, later signing Michael Vick as a mentor/insurance policy.

The Jets fumbled the message along the way, making it harder to decipher than it needed to be, but their plan never changed: It was Smith's job to lose. Vick's mediocre spring only reinforced their belief that Smith would be The Guy.

Vick never had a chance; it was a competition that wasn't a competition. General manager John Idzik's quote from early in training camp -- "it's not tilted" in Smith's favor -- was laughable at the time. Now, it's a knee-slapper.

Ryan could've made the announcement last week -- everybody knew anyway -- but he waited until after the game for two reasons: He wanted the quasi-competition to run its course, lest he contradict the Idzik mantra. He also wanted to make sure the plan wasn't muddied by an injury, as was the case last summer.

"He played a little better than the last time he was here against the same opponent," said Ryan, remembering Smith's three-interception nightmare that included a brain-cramp safety when he stepped out of the end zone.

The coach was smiling. He likes Smith's "command and presence, the way he can use his legs to get positive yards, and he can throw the football. He can make all the throws. I was really, really, really pleased with how Geno played, especially tonight."

In five preseason quarters, Smith has committed only one turnover -- an interception on a mistimed route last week with David Nelson. That's the biggest difference between last season and now: He doesn't do dumb things. He has completed 70 percent of his passes. If he can be a competent game manager, letting Chris Johnson & Co. do the heavy lifting, the Jets can be a playoff team.

"I knew the entire time that Geno was going to be the starter, but Geno went out and proved that he's capable of running this team and putting the team in a position to win," said Vick, who has handled the situation graciously from the beginning.

Smith hasn't arrived yet. An encouraging finish last season against poor defensive teams, plus some nice preseason moments, doesn't mean the Jets have found their franchise quarterback. Teams do very little game planning in the preseason, so the coverages are easier to read. In many respects, it's Football 101, so take everything with a grain of salt. But give Smith credit for handling it well, improving a little each week. The real tests start in two weeks.

"He's done everything we've asked of him," Ryan said of Smith.

So this year the Jets didn't come away with the Snoopy Trophy. No big deal. At least they're not being dogged for having messed up their quarterback situation.

CB Antonio Allen sustains a concussion

August, 23, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Jets cornerback Antonio Allen sustained a concussion in the first half of a 35-24 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in their third preseason game. Jets coach Rex Ryan confirmed that Allen was going through the NFL's concussion protocol.

The injury further complicates the team's issues at cornerback just two weeks before the start of the regular season.

"It's frustrating," cornerback Darrin Walls said. "We already have enough corners down, but hopefully he'll be fine."

Allen's injury came even as he and Walls -- backups pressed into starting roles for the game -- played fairly well. Allen had a tackle and a pass defended before heading to the locker room with the trainers.

In his debut as starting corner, Walls had three tackles and two defended passes while playing with the first team in the first half. He added another tackle and pass defended by the final buzzer.

One was early on, when he nearly intercepted Reuben Randle deep but kept the ball out of the Giants wide receiver's hands.

"I pretty much read the route, got a good jump on it." I was playing off coverage and I read what he was going to run."

Dawan Landry saw the play unfold, and has seen Walls jump routes like that a dozen times in practice.

"That's one of his favorite routes to be honest," Landry said. "I knew he'd make a play on that."

The performance was a positive for a position filled with question marks. The Jets lost projected starter rookie Dexter McDougle to an ACL injury two weeks ago. At the same time, starter Dee Milliner sustained a high ankle sprain and might not be ready to go at the start of the season when the Jets host Oakland. Veteran Dmitri Patterson, who played but didn't start, has been limited with a leg injury.

"One more week so we need to make sure we're communicating in practice, make sure we get whoever is in the game up to speed and we'll be fine," Landry said. "There's a lot of depth in our secondary so I know we'll be fine."

Criticism has been growing, as some are contending general manager John Idzik didn't shore up the position a little more in the offseason. This is a team that had Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie just two seasons ago. With another player out for an indefinite amount of time, that criticism could get louder.

Simms salsas after touchdown

August, 23, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Matt Simms had kind of planned it -- telling fellow New York Jets quarterbacks Geno Smith and Michael Vick that if he got into the end zone, he was going to bust out the salsa.

So when he connected with wide receiver Greg Salas to give the Jets a 24-21 lead over the Giants, Simms started shaking his hips in that iconic way Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz made famous as his end zone dance.

“I was just having some fun,” Simms said. “Nothing personal. I actually worked out with Victor in the offseason this year so I know him personally so it wasn’t to take a jab at him or anything like that. I was just having some fun with something that everyone knows in the stadium.”

Simms wasn't the only player participating in the dance party, as Rueben Randle caught a second-quarter touchdown pass and celebrated by spreading his arms and running around the end zone (much like the old Flight Boys celebration).

As for the salsa, Simms wasn’t quite as impressive as Cruz, and he could tell it by the reaction he got from the nearest ref.

“He just looked at me and started shaking his head,” Simms said. “He was just like, ‘come on man really?’ And I was like, ‘Sorry’ and just kept walking by.”

Ultimately the Giants won the game 35-24, so the touchdown, and the dance, didn’t hold up.

After, Vick said he’d have to check the tape on the moves since he’d missed it live.

“We had a couple different celebrations we were going to do,” Vick said. “I never got around to mine he got his salsa in.”

What was he going to do?

“I can’t tell you,” Vick said with a smile.

Observation Deck: New York Jets

August, 22, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets' starters ended the preseason on an upbeat note, combining a well-balanced offense and a tenacious pass rush in a 35-24 loss to the New York Giants on Friday night at MetLife Stadium.

Because Rex Ryan doesn't play his starters in the last preseason game, this was the final dress rehearsal. After a week of mild trash talk between the teams, the Jets relinquished the coveted Snoopy Trophy (wink, wink). Ryan wanted to retain that dog in the worst way, but let's not overlook the big picture: The Jets (2-1) are improving as the regular season draws near.

A few other takeaways from the game:
  • Geno Smith (9-for-14, 137 yards) delivered his finest performance of the preseason, leading the Jets to 10 points in the first half. It should've been 14 points, but Eric Decker dropped a pass in the end zone. Smith, a nervous wreck last year against the Giants, calmly directed the offense, making good decisions and mixing screens and intermediate strikes. Obviously, the starting job is a fait accompli. Michael Vick played well in two series with the starters, finding Decker for a touchdown, but don't read anything into that. Ryan used Vick to give him one last run with the first team before the season starts.
  • In a surprise, Ryan pulled Smith for the start of the second half. The plan was to play him at least a series in the third quarter, giving him a chance to restart after the halftime break, but you have to wonder if Ryan was haunted by last year's Mark Sanchez injury disaster. This time, he played it safe with his presumptive starter.
  • The Jets' beleaguered secondary can't catch a break. The revamped starting unit actually played a decent game against Eli Manning & Co., but safety-turned-cornerback Antonio Allen left in the second quarter with a head injury, the result of a helmet-to-helmet collision with teammate Demario Davis. If Allen has a concussion, he'll have two weeks to recover before the opener. The Jets, already down two starters, can't afford to lose Allen. He was replaced by LeQuan Lewis, who they signed only a couple of weeks ago. Lewis got beat by Rueben Randle for a 15-yard touchdown at the end of the first half.
  • All things considered, the secondary was better than it was in last week's Cincinnati debacle, but it benefited from a fierce pass rush. It was a feeding frenzy for Muhammad Wilkerson & Co., which harrassed Eli Manning (12-for-21, 139 yards). The Jets exploited the Giants' rebuilt line, forcing questionable throws. They couldn't capitalize, as Darrin Walls and Kyle Wilson missed would-be interceptions. Wilson had a tough time with Victor Cruz in the slot.
  • The Jets have to be thrilled with their running back situation. Chris Johnson started and played well for the second straight week, finishing with 42 yards on nine carries. He got into the open field a few times, and there aren't many players more dangerous in space than Johnson. It was an impressive 1-2 punch, as Chris Ivory came off the bench and hammered away for 50 yards on six carries. Their skill sets are so diverse that it'll be hard for opponents to handle them, especially with creative play-calling.
  • Hey -- whaddya know? -- the Jets rediscovered the screen pass. They ripped off three long gainers with well-executed screens, a great way to slow down an aggressive pass rush.