The New York Jets wrapped up their first weekend of training camp today with their inaugural padded practice, despite a brief weather delay. Geno Smith received his first opportunity to run with the starters and did not disappoint. Without getting too wrapped up in the day’s “stats,” it is clear Smith’s arm strength and poise is making an impression.
This summer’s quarterback competition is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. A decision likely won’t be reached until the Jets are preparing for their third pre-season game, which is nearly a month away. Yet, the most positive thing we are hearing related to Smith is that he looks like he belongs. The first couple of weeks of training camp can easily be overwhelming for a rookie, particularly a quarterback in the New York spotlight.
There hasn’t been turnovers. There hasn’t been an unorganized huddle or formations. There hasn’t been constant miscommunications with the wide receivers. All we are hearing about is downfield completions and a high level of confidence. Smith’s arm strength is no secret but the fact that he is regularly hooking up with his receivers for a 20+ yard completions is generating immense excitement among a fan-base who is accustomed to the offense moving 3 yards at a time.
Perspective is always needed in July and after one notably strong practice. However, if you can’t get a little excited about a rookie quarterback airing it out all over the yard, what’s point of following the team? For Smith, all he needs to do is keep this competition close and he will have a great chance to start week one. He appears to be starting off on the right foot.
Mark Sanchez hasn’t played poorly. He is also protecting the ball and has been generally efficient, despite the injuries around the offense. However, he doesn’t seem to be pushing the ball down the field at the same rate Smith is. Sanchez is the favorite to win this job but he needs to play to win instead of playing not to lose. It will be interesting to see how aggressively he attacks in the Green/White scrimmage and early in the pre-season.
Outside of quarterback, wide receiver Clyde Gates is generating the most buzz. Gates is a player we were highly critical of because the tape from him in 2012 showed a receiver with immense speed but poor route running ability and inconsistent hands. The first three days of camp have shown a receiver catching everything in sight and with more precision to his routes. If Gates can maintain consistency, it will be a nice boost to a Jets offense desperately in need of speed and playmakers. Wide receiver is an extremely fluid position for the Jets, if you can make an impression, the opportunity is going to be there to seize a big chunk of playing time.
Defensively, it remains frustrating that Dee Milliner is not in camp yet. Number seven overall pick Jonathan Cooper signed today, which may help nudge along negotiations but every day that MIlliner misses will make it that much harder for him to compete for a starting role. Current starting corner Kyle WIlson is getting some reps at free safety in certain packages, which is a sensible move from Rex Ryan considering their lack of depth there. Just about every player in the Jets defense needs to have the ability to play 2-4 different positions because of how versatile Ryan is with his playbook.
The team only has four more practices before the Green and White scrimmage this Saturday, which is a key early marker for many positional battles. For players like Smith and Gates, consistency remains crucial before hopefully making a big splash in an even more competitive situation.