New York Jets  


Geno Smith unspectacular, while Michael Vick provides a spark


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets hope to come out of the preseason with what the Indianapolis Colts have had for two years: a never-in-question, never-out-of-the-game quarterback around whom to build. The Jets got to see what that is like up close, when Andrew Luck sliced up their vaunted defense in his lone drive in Thursday night's preseason opener. And then they saw their own quarterback competition-that-isn't fall flat.

Geno Smith surely won't lose his grip on the starting job after this game, in which he made no big mistakes and the Jets won 13-10. But Thursday night's happenings also didn't put to rest any debates, or at least the debates that seem to exist only outside the Jets' brain trust.

Smith led two drives that totaled 11 plays and garnered just three points, completing four of his six passes for 33 yards. It was not bad. It was just not enough -- not enough to put any more distance between him and Michael Vick, not enough to fulfill Rex Ryan's stated desire to see production (read: touchdowns) from his offense in the first game, not enough to erase the lingering unease that while Vick is supposed to be pushing Smith, there is almost nothing he could do to push himself further into consideration as a viable starting option.

Ryan said he was pleased with both quarterbacks.

"It felt good," Smith said. "I was going through my reads pretty smoothly. I was able to go through my reads and hit some open guys. With time, we'll get better and just continue to progress and continue to work hard."

Vick provided the only must-see moment of the night, a vintage bit of Vick derring-do on a 15-yard scramble that netted a first down, a play that made Ryan a bit giddy when he talked about it.

"He looked great," the coach said. "Shoot. You can have them all covered up, but you better account for the quarterback. It puts huge, huge stress on the defense."

Indeed, Vick remains a breathtaking runner, even if you often want to hold your breath because that often leads to the kind of injury that has bedeviled his career and given teams that could use his explosiveness -- like the Jets -- long moments of pause. He led a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a touchdown on which he completed three of six passes for 17 yards.

It is difficult to put too much stock in preseason games, particularly the early ones, because the mixing and matching of personnel dilutes the sample of play we see. But the Jets' determination that Smith is the unquestioned starter, and the dividing of practice reps in training camp with Vick to support it but not challenge it, seems somewhat out of proportion to Smith's body of work so far.

The Jets want to believe that Smith's final month last season, in which he finally staunched the gusher on his 21-interception rookie season, was his launching pad. Perhaps they will be right as the 2014 season unfolds. Assuming that Smith will be the starter, there already has been speculation that perhaps the Jets will have a small package of plays designed just for Vick, to stress defenses while also preserving him. But even Vick seems to know that is often folly. The Jets need to look no further than their failed Tim Tebow experiment -- and how it upset Mark Sanchez's rhythm.

"It's cool, but that disrupts the timing of the offense," Vick said. "That has to be done at the right time. I experienced that in Philadelphia with Donovan (McNabb) at times. You want to go out there and let the quarterbacks get into a rhythm and not try to do too much. I think that's doing too much. You know when the time calls for it, the coaches will see fit that that's put in."

The Jets have given Vick about 25 percent (at most) of the practice reps with the starters during training camp, and even as the seriousness of the preseason games increases, Vick does not expect that figure to increase. He was the first, after all, to acknowledge that this was Smith's job all along, and even if the Jets' wordplay won't let them admit that, too, it is obvious that they are prepared to cast their lot with Smith, regardless of whether that leaves their most dynamic player on the bench.

"The most important thing is to continue to build on what we created," Vick said. "We can't regress. We've got to continue to move in the right direction and continue to put the best players out there to make the plays."

Which raises a question the Jets might hear until Smith answers: Are they?

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.



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