Smith fires downfield
It's like John Stockton filling in for Karl Malone and switching from point guard to power forward.
Brad Smith said the most difficult aspects of his transition from quarterback to wide receiver were in getting used to moving without the ball, not seeing the entire field and not being in control of the action.
"You don't have the ball, first of all, and then you have to run to get open," he said. "That's something I wasn't used to. It's like basketball; waiting for that post pass."
The pass came today, during the two-minute drive near the end of the morning practice session. But it was more an outlet throw on a fast break than a bounce pass into the paint.
With the offense trailing, 20-17, and faced with a fourth-and-10 at its 47-yard line, Favre connected with Smith for a dramatic (as dramatic as a training camp play can be) 53-yard touchdown.
It was a three-receiver formation with Smith lined up at flanker, and all three ran go routes. The defense was in a two-deep zone, according to Smith.
"On the coverage, one of the safeties jumped down," he explained. "The inside guys did a great job of drawing the safeties' attention and holding them down so we could put it over the top."
It was another Favrean throw, traveling about 60 yards in the air from where it was released behind the line of scrimmage.
But Smith certainly did his part. Despite it being forth down with his squad needing just 10 yards, Favre's decision to throw deep wasn't that risky. Smith was his open man. The third-year pro was able to separate from Darrelle Revis up the right sideline and stretched out to haul the pass in.
Deflective of praise, Smith said, "Brett just made a great throw and put it out there."
After a decorated career at the University of Missouri, where he racked up 13,088 total yards and 101 touchdowns, Smith was converted by the Jets to wideout.
The switch wasn't sudden, though. Even at last year's training camp, the Jets had him lining up at either position. At one point, he was considered a quarterback who played receiver. Smith would run plays as the signalcaller, then between drives quickly pull on a white jersey over his red one and split out wide. He even attempted 15 passes last preseason.
No more. Smith, after totaling 32 receptions and three touchdowns as the No. 3 receiver last season, is now a full-time pass-catcher. The transformation is complete.
"One of the things about last year is I was dead tired, going back and forth," Smith said, seemingly relieved to have been relieved of his hybrid duties. "It's a little easier to do one thing."
This year he faces a new challenge: staving off a slew of impressive young receivers looking to snatch playing time from him. Chansi Stuckey's stock continues to soar, David Ball has made highlight-reel catches in practice, and David Clowney runs like a VHS tape in fast-forward.
"I just play my game and try to do my thing," Smith said matter-of-factly.
Smith isn't yielding to anyone. His thing includes running crisp routes and being a reliable target with some of the best hands on the team.
"I improved on my whole game and my thought process with things I can do to help myself get open that may be different from other guys," he said, though he was reluctant to divulge details.
Smith also spent the off-season studying himself — looking for things work on — and some of the league's elite receivers — looking for things to learn.
"Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, and the guys in Arizona, Anquan [Boldin] and Larry Fitzgerald," Smith said. "I like to watch them because they're guys with similar body types to mine."
He really likes to learn. He hasn't gotten around to it yet, but he plans to spend extra time with Favre talking quarterback to receiver and quarterback to quarterback.
No doubt, they'll be working on the pick-and-roll.