NFL Nation: Geno Smith

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.
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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Notes and observations from Wednesday's OTA practice:

1. He-e-e-e-re's Dex: Third-round pick Dexter McDougle, who missed the final nine games of his senior year due to major shoulder surgery, made his practice debut for the New York Jets. After three weeks of wearing a red (non-contact) jersey, the rookie cornerback wore green with the rest of his defensive teammates and impressed Rex Ryan so much that the coach called him out in front of the team afterward. McDougle worked with the second-team nickel package and didn't seem tentative at all. This, of course, is good news for the Jets' revamped cornerback position.

[+] EnlargeEric Decker
AP Photo/Julio CortezThe Jets will be counting on receiver Eric Decker to produce in the red zone this season.
2. Rex comes clean: The Jets received mild criticism for taking McDougle in the third round, considering the time he missed at Maryland. Ryan admitted he, too, thought it was a risky pick, but others in the organization -- mainly defensive coordinat0r Dennis Thurman -- "eased my doubts" about McDougle. Ryan said Thurman, after watching McDougle on tape for the first time, came up to him and said, "I've got the guy right here." Ryan said they graded McDougle as one of the top "character" players in the draft. Assuming he has no setbacks, he will be able to participate in next week's minicamp.

3. Changing of the guards: 'Tis the time of year to experiment. With Willie Colon (arthroscopic knee surgery) sidelined for the remainder of the offseason, the Jets have been rotating players at right guard. On Wednesday, it was Brian Winters' turn. He traded places with Oday Aboushi, who moved to Winters' spot at left guard. No, this doesn't mean Colon is in danger of losing his starting job. Ryan acknowledged that Colon, who is expected to return for training camp, is a likely starter, but not necessarily at right guard. Interesting. Moving the players around in June creates competition and flexibility that could help in training camp.

4. Geno and Vick: There was a concentration on the two-minute offense and the red zone in practice. Both Geno Smith and Michael Vick looked sharp in the red zone, each quarterback completing four of five passes in team drills. Smith got most of the work with the starters. His best moment came when he stepped up in the pocket and found wide receiver Eric Decker in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Decker dominated in the red zone, one of the reasons why the Jets are paying him $7 million a year. Vick displayed his old form, scrambling for a touchdown. He also made a nice scoring pass to rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders.

5. Two-minute hiccups: Smith wasn't nearly as crisp in the hurry-up situation. He started off with a deep ball to Decker, but the drive stalled as he misfired on three of his last four passes. First-round pick Calvin Pryor came on a safety blitz to disrupt Smith on one play.

6. Rex on the QB competition/non-competition: Not surprisingly, Ryan spoke glowingly on the Smith-Vick battle -- even though it's not really a battle, if you ask Vick. "Both guys are sharp," Ryan said. "They're pushing themselves and pushing each other. That's exactly what we wanted to have happen. ... I've been really impressed with it."

7. Attendance report: Players that didn't participate in the voluntary practice included wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (personal), running back Mike Goodson (undisclosed), running back Chris Johnson (knee), running back Daryl Richardson (toe), wide receiver Jacoby Ford (undisclosed), Colon (knee), rookie wide receiver Shaq Evans (school obligation) and linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee). Ryan said he expects Goodson to show up for next week's mandatory minicamp. As expected, Johnson -- six months removed from knee surgery -- isn't expected to do much, if anything, in the minicamp. Ford will be full speed by next week.

8. Dee's cranky hammy: Cornerback Dee Milliner, who sat out last week's open practice, participated on a limited basis. Officially, the team is calling it hamstring "tightness," not a pulled hamstring. Got that? Ryan said they kept him out for precautionary reasons.

9. Odds and ends: Pryor continued to work with the starters. It was Pryor and Antonio Allen at safety, with Dawan Landry practicing with the second team. Landry already knows the defense; the plan is to let Pryor and Allen get as many reps as possible. ... The Jets are continuing their penalty/push-up tradition. When a penalty is committed, the entire team drops for 10 push ups. General manager John Idzik was among the non-players that did pushups. ... Matt Simms, battling rookie Tajh Boyd for the No. 3 quarterback job, threw an interception. ... Rookie tight end Jace Amaro, coming off a three-drop day last week, had another drop but looked much better catching the ball.
One of the reasons I like Joe Namath's commentary is that, despite his obvious passion for the New York Jets, he's not afraid to tell it like it is even though fans may not want to hear it.

Namath's take on the current quarterback situation is particularly astute because he touches on an issue that could turn messy, depending on how things play out over the summer. And that issue is this: Right now, the best quarterback on the team (Michael Vick) is the underdog in the competition/non-competition (or whatever you want to call it). From all indications, it's Geno Smith's job to lose.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick and Geno Smith
AP Photo/Julio CortezMichael Vick (left) is the better quarterback right now, according to Joe Namath, but the team wants Geno Smith to step up and take the starting job.
"Right now, they have two quarterbacks that they’re talking about and, given help, given great blocking and great defense, they can win with those two quarterbacks," Namath said Monday night on the NFL Network. "But, come on, there is no doubt who has the most experience and is probably the better quarterback now. But there is no doubt where the Jets are trying to go in the future. They want Geno to step up to be that man."

This could lead to problems if the same perception exists in late August. That's why Smith must emphatically state his case in the preseason; he must absolutely show he's the best man for the job. Most people think a "tie" would go to Smith, but he needs to do better than a tie. A tie wouldn't eliminate the questions. This is why I believe it should be a truly open competition, as I wrote recently.

From what I've seen and heard, Smith has outplayed Vick in OTA practices (most of which have been closed to the media), but as Namath noted, "You’ve got to go out there and prove that you’re better than the other guy, day in and day out, but especially in the games. OTAs, practice -- we all look sensational when no one is coming at us as quarterbacks for the most part." That's so true.

We'll continue to chronicle the quarterback situation through this week (the final open OTA is Wednesday) and through next week's mandatory minicamp (June 17-19). But things won't perk up until late July, when they report to training camp. That's when it'll get serious.

Who would Namath pick as his starter? He said he doesn't have enough information right now to express a strong opinion.

"Both quarterbacks physically have wonderful talent, good talent certainly," he said. "What goes on in the head? What goes on in the head in the course of a game when the heat is on you? How do they behave there? Can they take you to a championship? Do you expect both of these quarterbacks or one of them to be of championship-caliber? That remains to be seen. I don’t know."

When Namath says he doesn't know, it's telling.
Michael Vick, graybeard.

It doesn't sound right, does it? Not long ago (or so it seems), Vick was considered one of the NFL's most lethal weapons, a quarterback with sprinter's speed and a cannon for an arm. He still believes he has "unbelievable talent," but his birth certificate indicates he's closer to the end than to his prime. Vick, the oldest player on the New York Jets, turns 34 on June 26. Just recently, one of the young players called him "sir" during a practice, triggering a funny fallout.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Julio Cortez/AP PhotoCome the end of June, quarterback Michael Vick will turn 34 and will become the oldest New York Jets player on the current roster.
Everyone was amused -- everyone except Vick, that is.

"We got a good laugh off it," he said. "Seriously, deep down I really didn’t think it was funny.

"That baffled me a little bit," Vick said. "I’m not that old, and I have to reiterate that over and over again. I may be 10 or 12 years their senior, but when you start calling me 'sir' I need to start thinking about retiring."

How do you know you're old in the NFL? It's when you hear from teammates that you were their quarterback when they played the John Madden video game as kids.

"I get that all the time, not just in here, that’s all across the world, wherever I’m at," Vick said. "That’s a good thing, but it definitely makes you feel old, I can tell you that."

That the Jets are a relatively young team probably makes Vick feel older than he is. Consider: They have only eight players that belong to the thirty-something club. The others are Calvin Pace (33), Willie Colon (31), Dawan Landry (31), Dimitri Patterson (30), Nick Mangold (30), D'Brickashaw Ferguson (30) and David Harris (30). Tanner Purdum will hit 30 before the start of the season.

Don't believe for a second Vick believes he's ready for Mark Brunell or David Garrard status -- end-of-their-career backups whose sole purpose was to mentor the young starter. No, Vick thinks he can still play, and so do the Jets. They feel he can take over the offense, if necessary, while offering intangible benefits that will assist Geno Smith in his development. Basically, he's Garrard, except ... you know, better.

How Vick handles the role will go a long way toward determing whether the "unique" quarterback dynamic (Vick's word) will succeed. If he becomes a "me" guy and complains, it'll wreck team chemistry. Obviously, the Jets are betting he buys in.

Jets offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the New York Jets' offseason moves:

Best move: The Jets doled out $7 million a year for Eric Decker, but he's an upgrade over the previous No. 1 receiver, Santonio Holmes, a diminished diva whose sour attitude won't be missed. Decker is a 6-foot-3 target whose catching radius will help Geno Smith, who struggled last season with his accuracy. No doubt Decker benefited from having the Broncos' Peyton Manning as his quarterback the past two seasons, but he's still a quality player who can help in a variety of ways. For instance: Decker had seven red zone touchdown catches last season, only one fewer than the Jets produced as a team.

[+] EnlargeDimitri Patterson
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeThe Jets hope Dimitri Patterson can fill the void created when Antonio Cromartie departed.
Riskiest move: They're counting on journeyman Dimitri Patterson, signed from the Dolphins, to replace Antonio Cromartie at cornerback -- a big gamble. Patterson, 31, has missed 33 of his past 48 games, so the Jets are taking quite a leap by thinking he will stay healthy. What's more, he's best suited for the slot, not one of the outside positions. General manager John Idzik mismanaged the cornerback market. Knowing the importance of corners in Rex Ryan's man-to-man system, Idzik should've made a stronger commitment to the position. He flirted with some big names but wound up with Patterson, who will be playing for his sixth team in 10 years. To exacerbate the issue, Idzik waited until the third round before drafting a corner.

Most surprising move: The Jets bill themselves as a young, ascending team, yet they allowed one of their ascending players to walk out the door -- right tackle Austin Howard, who signed with the Raiders. The Jets found him on the scrap heap, invested three years of development and watched him become an above-average player with upside. And then he was gone. Howard's replacement, Breno Giacomini, formerly of the Seahawks, is a comparable player -- and cheaper. Statistically, he's a better run-blocker than Howard but is not quite as adept in pass protection. Here's the big difference, though: Howard, 27, is two years younger than Giacomini, meaning he would've been a better fit in the long-term plan.

John the Deliberate: Overall, Idzik had a solid offseason, adding several new pieces on offense (let's not forget about running back Chris Johnson and quarterback Michael Vick) -- but the second-year GM didn't spend as much money as he could've. After dumping Holmes' and Mark Sanchez's contracts, the Jets were among the league leaders in cap space, but Idzik was relatively conservative in free agency, relying on a 12-player draft haul to upgrade the roster. Unlike some GMs, who overpay for second-rate talent, he refuses to deviate from his long-term plan. It's the right approach for a franchise previously obsessed with quick-fix moves, but it's not foolproof. The cornerback situation will come back to bite him.
If Tajh Boyd is on the field this season, it's a bad sign for the New York Jets.

Nothing against Boyd, a record-setting college quarterback who seems like a terrific young man, but he's starting out as No. 4 on the depth chart. He will compete with Matt Simms for No. 3, meaning the ideal scenario for Boyd is a season of clipboard-holding duty. And yet there's something intriguing about the former Clemson star. It's probably because he's a quarterback, and we tend to obsess over quarterbacks. But there's more to it than that. Here's a player who, going into his senior year, was regarded as a potential high draft pick. He tumbled all the way to the sixth round, the kind of fall that always prompts two contrasting questions:

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsCurrently the No. 4 quarterback on the roster, Tajh Boyd has a long road ahead of him if he wants to be the starter for the Jets.
What's wrong with him?

Did the team get a steal?

Boyd said he was sitting in the Jets' cafeteria the other day when a couple of his new teammates asked if he regretted returning to school for his senior year. Tough crowd, huh?

"I don't regret the decision at all," Boyd told reporters at last weekend's rookie camp. "I wanted to finish."

He wanted to win the national championship and the Heisman Trophy, neither of which happened. His motivation was admirable, but the extra year allowed pro teams to dissect the perceived flaws in his game. Among the criticisms:

1. Disappointing senior year: Boyd is puzzled by this school of thought. "My stats were actually better this year than my junior year," he said. He's right. He improved his accuracy (67.2 percent to 68.5) and cut down on his interceptions (13 to 11).

2. Mechanics need work. Boyd has a funky delivery, sometime throwing sidearm or three-quarters. He sometimes did it out of necessity, but quarterbacks coach David Lee -- a stickler on fundamentals -- is working with Boyd to get him to throw over the top.

3. Height: Officially, he's a shade under 6-foot-1. No amount of coaching can change that.

4. Benefited from an outstanding supporting cast: No doubt, Boyd was surrounded by a lot of talent at Clemson, but he doesn't believe that should count against him. "In my eyes, everybody has to have somebody to throw to," he said. "My guy just happened to be Sammy Watkins" -- the top receiver in the draft.

Boyd has a lot of work ahead of him, trying to learn the nuances of a pro-style offense. Much like Geno Smith last year, he has to get comfortable under center, a big transition after playing almost exclusively in shotgun. Boyd said he's surprised that Smith, Simms and Michael Vick have been so helpful. His figured the NFL is such a cut-throat business that he wouldn't get much positive input from players at his own position.

"It has a certain perception, aura of what you think is going to happen," Boyd said. "When I got here, it was totally different, like those guys were pretty excited that I was in the room."

The Jets will be excited if Boyd develops into an NFL-caliber quarterback, but the odds are against him. Tom Brady came out of the sixth round in 2000, but he's a once-in-a-generation player. Over the last 20 years, the Jets have drafted five quarterbacks in the fourth round or later, none of whom did much in the league -- Greg McElroy (seventh round, 2011), Erik Ainge (fifth, 2008), Brooks Bollinger (sixth, 2003), Chuck Clements (sixth, 1997) and Glenn Foley (seventh, 1994).

Their last late-round quarterback pick to make an impact was Jeff Blake (sixth, 1992) -- and that happened with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Brash Rex made a brief appearance Thursday. Well, let's say it was Brash Rex Lite.

On the eve of rookie camp, Rex Ryan spoke confidently about his team, saying he expects the New York Jets to be a playoff contender. That's hardly an outlandish statement, considering they finished 8-8 last season. But Ryan, a guest on WFAN radio, made a borderline comical remark when he said, "I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not so sure there’s too many teams that want to play us."

Ryan
Oh, really? There aren't many teams that don't want to face a second-year quarterback who threw 21 interceptions as a rookie? Aren't too many teams that don't want a face a pass defense that allowed nearly 4,000 yards? Interesting. Consider this: The Jets were outscored by 97 points last season, the largest negative point differential for a .500 or better team since the merger in 1970. In other words, they were a soft 8-8.

Obviously, they made several high-profile acquisitions in the offseason, so maybe they can turn weaknesses into strengths. Maybe Chris Johnson can turn back the clock a couple of years. Maybe Eric Decker will show he's not a Peyton Manning creation. But questions remain, especially at quarterback and cornerback.

Sticking to his talking points on the potentially volatile quarterback situation, Ryan reiterated that Geno Smith will "be hard to beat out, and I truly believe that. Just seeing him throw the ball around here, he’s got a much better understanding of what we want at that position. He knows the offense forward and backwards and he is really throwing the football well."

To cover his bases, Ryan also said Michael Vick "definitely" has a chance to win the job in the preseason.

Cornerback is a concern, too. Ryan predicted that former No. 1 pick Dee Milliner will be "special," also acknowledging that free-agent pickup Dimitri Patterson is expected to start opposite Milliner. That hardly solves the issues at the position.

The coach who hasn't reached the postseason in three consecutive years believes his team will be in the hunt.

"I’m not going to guarantee playoffs or all that, but absolutely, I know what our goal is and I believe we can reach it," said Ryan, the eternal optimist.

No one sells tickets better than him.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- One of the greatest college football players in history was right there for the New York Jets. All they had to do was write "Johnny Manziel" on a card, give it to the commissioner and -- boom -- the NFL draft would've been turned upside down.

Manziel
Johnny Football in the Big Apple.

He-e-e-e-e-re's Johnny!

Didn't happen, of course. The Jets passed on Manziel, selecting former Louisville safety Calvin Pryor with the 18th pick. In more ways than one, it was a safety choice.

Afterward, general manager John Idzik refused to say whether they considered Manziel.

"We won't get into who was in consideration," he said. "Suffice it to say, we stuck to our philosophy and we stuck to our board."

Idzik acknowledged that they "fielded plenty of calls" from teams picking below them, presumably teams interested in trading up for Manziel. One of them may have been the Cleveland Browns (26th), who wound up trading places with the Philadelphia Eagles (22nd) to take the former Texas A&M star.

It would've been an upset if the Jets had picked Manziel, considering how much they've talked up Geno Smith, not to mention the one-year contract they gave to Michael Vick. Now, if Smith fails to develop in 2014, the Jets will be back to square one at the quarterback position in 2015, providing fodder for those who thought they should've grabbed Manziel. Clearly, Idzik didn't want to toss Smith to the curb after one year, in part, because it would've been a self-indictment on his scouting and decision making.

It would've been fun, though.
As far as Rex Ryan is concerned, it's 2009 all over again.

He can only hope.

Johnson
On Monday, Ryan referenced 2009 when discussing his vision for the New York Jets' backfield, which now includes Chris Johnson. With Johnson, Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and, possibly, Mike Goodson, the Jets have an "unbelievable amount of depth" at tailback, according to Ryan. He said it reminds him of '09, the heyday of the Ground-and-Pound era, when they began the season with Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and Shonn Greene.

Ryan refused to be pinned down in terms of his plans for Johnson, insisting his role has yet to be determined. This much appears certain: Johnson won't get 18 carries per game, his career average. Coming off arthroscopic surgery, and approaching his 29th birthday, the former Tennessee Titans star figures to be a complementary back.

"Nothing was ever promised that, 'You’re going to get X amount of carries,'" Ryan claimed. "We're going to have to compete for roles. No role has been determiened for anybody on this football team."

Johnson's surgically repaired knee (torn meniscus) could go a long way toward determining his workload. He has some arthritis in his right knee, according to an ESPN report, but it obviously didn't cause him to flunk the team's physical. Ryan said Johnson will be among several players limited in the offseason program.

Another player is Goodson, whose roster spot could be in jeopardy. Ryan said he hopes to have Goodson, but he didn't sound confident. Aside from the knee injury, he's dealing with pending legal charges (and a possible suspension) stemming from his arrest last May.

lastname
Goodson
"If Goodson comes back, we’ll see what he can provide," said Ryan, adding: "I don’t anticipate anything in the near future that he’ll be able to do, but we’ll see how he progresses."

Goodson was supposed to be the breakaway back last season, but that never materialized. Now it falls to Johnson, who ran a sub-4.3 time in the 40 when he came out of college in 2008. Some of Johnson's new teammates sounded excited about having him.

"He's a highlight reel waiting to happen," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said.

Quarterback Geno Smith said "the first thing that comes to mind is speed and home-run hitter. I don't know how many times he's broken runs for 50, 60 yards, but it seems like he does almost every week. He brings another explosive dimension into our running-back room."

Johnson doesn't break as many long runs as he used to, but anything is an improvement for the Jets.

Examining the what-if QB question

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
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Only one team in the last 40 years has drafted a quarterback in the first round the year after picking one within the first two rounds -- the Carolina Panthers, who chose Cam Newton in 2011 to replace Jimmy Clausen, a second-rounder.

Could the New York Jets become the second team?

Unlikely, but it's a good talking point because of the uncertainty regarding the top three quarterbacks -- Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. In his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column, Sports Illustrated's Peter King notes that four quarterback-needy teams in the top six are thinking hard about waiting until after their first pick to address the position. The teams: The Houston Texans (No. 1), Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 3), Cleveland Browns (No. 4) and Oakland Raiders (No. 5). The Minnesota Vikings (No. 8) didn't make the list, but they're also looking for a quarterback.

If one of the top three quarterbacks gets past the Vikings, it's possible he could fall all the way to the Jets at No. 18. What, then? It certainly would add to the drama at Radio City. Would the Jets, only one year removed from choosing Geno Smith in the second round, take another quarterback?

First of all, this isn't a Carolina situation for two reasons: Unlike Clausen, Smith showed some promise as a rookie. In addition, the Panthers owned the No. 1 pick when they drafted Newton, who was deemed a legitimate franchise quarterback. Most talent evaluators agree there are no quarterbacks of that ilk in this year's draft, just a group of intriguing prospects that fall into the good-not-great category.

Some believe the most likely to fall is Bridgewater, once considered a top-five pick. (Sound familiar, Geno?) If he slips to the Jets, they'd have to ask themselves: Is he better than Smith and could he be our starting quarterback in 2015? Personally, I'd pull the trigger if it were Manziel.

The organization is hopeful that Smith can become their long-term starter, but it's not sold on him. If that were the case, Michael Vick wouldn't be here. If the Jets have a strong conviction on Bridgewater (or any others), and he's clearly the best player on their board, they should take him. This is a quarterback-driven league, and you can't have sustainable success (where have we heard that before?) without a good quarterback.

That said, it would an upset if the Jets go in that direction. They have too many other needs and they're not ready to abandon Smith after only one season. If they picked a quarterback, the Smith trade rumors would begin about 30 seconds after the selection. Could you imagine Rex Ryan's reaction if his general manager picks a player that probably wouldn't be able to help until 2015? He'd have to pull a Sir Laurence Olivier to convince the fans he's on board with that one.

A similar situation played out in 2006, when the Jets were looking to move on from Chad Pennington. With the fourth pick, they resisted the quarterback temptation, passing on Matt Leinart to take tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. They later looked into trading up for Leinart as he began to slide, but they wisely made no deal, walking out of the first round with Ferguson and center Nick Mangold.

In the end, this could all be a moot point because you know how teams react around draft time: When they're desperate for a quarterback, they panic and reach. If it turns out that Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel are picked in the top 17, it would benefit the Jets, as it would push a "need" player or two down to them.

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