August 15, 2013
‘Brutal’ Smith showing
As camp winds down rookie QB struggles
The final public practice day for the New York Jets will certainly be remembered by the players as well as the fans on hand Wednesday at SUNY Cortland.
With a brisk wind, on-and-off rain and chilly temperatures, the day felt more like a Cortaca Jug fall weekend for local Red Dragon and Ithaca College football fans. Under those conditions the Jets worked through a very bad offensive day, especially rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
Smith threw three interceptions in 11-on-11 drills and a fourth during seven-on-sevens. He was 5-for-10 in team drills with two drops to go with the three picks and two sacks.
Mark Sanchez, who has really been much sharper the past week, went 7-for-11 with a couple of touchdown passes to Braylon Edwards. Sanchez did have a shovel pass intercepted for his lone blemish, so the incumbent should leave camp in the lead for the starting spot.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan summed up Smith’s day in one word: “Brutal.”
That may be why the Jets announced this morning that Sanchez will be the starter when the Jacksonville Jaguars come to MetLife Stadium Saturday night for the second preseason game of the summer.
Ryan also said this was the coldest day he has ever seen for training camp in all his years of coaching, opening his final Cortland press conference by saying: “That was a beautiful December day. It was almost as chilly as the offensive performance.
“Not a good day at all for the offense,” he added. “Obviously. we have to straighten a lot of things out.”
To Smith’s credit, he wasn’t using an ankle injury suffered in last weekend’s preseason game in Detroit as an excuse for his tough day or the not-so-stellar week he hobbled through.
“Things are feeling good,” Smith said of the ankle. “I’ve been getting progressively better. I’m feeling pretty good. I was able to go out there and push this week and get some good work in.
“There hasn’t been any (limitations),” he continued. “I haven’t really been trying to use it as an excuse. I’ve been going out there and giving it my all. I think I’ve done a good job of just pushing through this week.”
In hindsight, should there have been a rest day for the ankle Sunday or was there a bigger message Smith wanted to deliver to his teammates?
“I wasn’t trying to really show them anything other than get out here and just continue to practice and gel with them.” Smith replied. “I hate the fact that everybody tries to make this about me, because it’s not. It’s about this team and these guys out here and we all work hard together. Everybody is out there battling injuries. We’ve all got to come together and just continue to do as we’ve always done, which is to go out there and just work hard and get better.”
The puzzling part of his final press conference in Cortland was Smith’s response to if he wanted to start the game Saturday night against visiting Jacksonville.
“No comment,” he replied. “Next question.”
On performance, Sanchez earned this chance to lead the first offense against the Jaguars’ top defense this week as Smith struggled.
As for his first training camp in Cortland, Smith did learn one very valuable lesson.
“I’ve learned to continue to push no matter what,” Smith said. “I’m not going to have the best days every single time, but that’s what we practice for. You want to get every single look, every scenario, and you want to just continue to work hard and progressively get better as an offense and I think that’s something we’ve done overall. I think every guy is getting more familiar with the offense and getting more comfortable in their roles and it’s only going to get better.”
Sanchez talked more about what lies ahead, starting with what he hopes to accomplish against Jacksonville.
“Just improve on some of the things from the last preseason game,” Sanchez said of the main weekend goal. “Be real sharp with our personnel stuff and continue to improve as a team. I think we’re on the right track and I think the games are a good test for us to see the depth of our roster and what guys are going to help us come fall.”
Sanchez did talk about how he felt training camp is going for him.
“I think it went about as well as it could,” Sanchez replied. “I felt good throughout the duration of camp. I thought I threw the ball well. I was accurate. I did my best to take care of the ball and move the team down the field. I thought we did that really well in spurts. I thought we got a little more consistent as things went on. We just have to keep improving. I felt fine with the rotation. Hopefully soon they’ll make a decision (on the starting job) and we’ll roll.”
With the defense having the spotlight more on the final day, all-pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie talked about the improved team speed.
“It’s very noticeable,” Cromartie said. “You have guys running to the ball, soaring to the ball and that’s all that we’re trying to do. When you’re keeping things simple and making sure guys can go out there and play full speed, it makes things a lot easier for guys to go out there and go play full speed.”
Cromartie has been impressed by the rookie who could be starting at the other corner, Dee Milliner.
“He’s been very impressive,” Cromartie said of the first round pick out of Alabama. “Our whole thing is to make sure that he’s running the defense correctly. We know what he can do on the field. We just want to make sure that when he goes on the field, he doesn’t have to think about anything, he just can go out there and play football.”
The Jets had a light walk-through today at SUNY Cortland without the public or media watching before packing their bags and heading back to Florham Park, N.J. That is where they will complete their preseason work before the regular season opener against Tampa Bay Sept. 8.
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