In the weeks leading up to the Jets 2014 Training Camp, we will take a position-by-position look at some of the key storylines to follow this summer.
You can't contend in the National Football League without quality quarterback play and Jets' signal callers have battled consistency issues throughout the Rex Ryan era. But the Green & White have expressed a lot of confidence in Geno Smith and they are optimistic he can turn the corner in Year 2.
1. Ball in Geno's Court: The training camp depth chart hasn't been released yet, but second-year QB Geno Smith will be on top when it is.
"He'll get about let's say 70-75 percent of the reps with the 1s," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told reporters this spring. "Geno, I'll get him a couple reps there with the second group as well. Here's my job, this is my responsibility and my duty really — I have to continue to progress the young quarterback that's got 16 games under his belt. That has to happen."
2. Quality Insurance Policy: If that young quarterback doesn't progress, the Jets have an excellent reliever in the bullpen in Mike Vick.
"He's still got some unbelievable physical talent," Rex Ryan said of the only player in NFL history to pass for 20,000 yards and rush for 5,000 yards. "He does things that look so easy, it is almost effortless the way he can throw the ball. Obviously he possess great speed, skill and escapability, so those are things you notice. He's accurate on the move and he's been the kind of teammate we expect."
A look at the Jets QBs during the 2014 OTA's
3. Run Game Threats: While Vick's prowess on the ground is well-documented, Smith became a far more effective rusher in the season's final quarter. He ran for 186 yards and scored three TDs on the ground while averaging 6.0 yards a carry as the Jets closed out 2013 on a 3-1 run.
"Both of those guys are mobile quarterbacks," said assistant head coach/RB coach Anthony Lynn. "You can do some zone read things with those guys that traditional drop-back passers can't get away with. That helps the running game as well, but it also opens up the passing game."
"That slows down rushes a little bit," added QB coach David Lee. "You've got to think hard about your blitzes with a guy that can run. We've run the option with (Smith). He's done a great job with that."
4. Air Jordan Approach: Last summer at SUNY Cortland, Geno Smith told me he was a Michael Jordan fan because MJ held his teammates to the utmost accountability. After leading five game-winning drives and becoming the 13th rookie QB in NFL history to throw for more than 3,000 yards, Smith is very comfortable in a leadership role.
"Every single day it's about really trying to chase that perfection, just trying to get better every single day, working on my craft and pushing the guys," he said. "We all want to be great. We all want to be good players. We all want to have a good offense, but it takes every single man on this team."
"He tries very hard to stay on the same page of the receivers, so if there is a miscommunication on a route that he has a question on — they talk as a group now," added WR coach Sanjay Lal. "Hey what did you see? This is what I saw. This is what I saw from a quarterback's perspective and he really relays that to receivers, so they can see it through his eyes. And that's a big step."
5. Battle for No. 3: Both veteran Matt Simms and rookie Tajh Boyd, a sixth-round selection from Clemson, will have to take advantage of limited reps. Simms took great strides last season and got his feet wet in mop-up duty while Boyd was a collegiate standout who completed 64.3% of his passes for 11,904 yards with 107 TDs and just 39 INTs for the Tigers.
The 34-year-old Vick, who played four seasons under Mornhinweg in Philly, will be a sounding board for the young group.
"When he says something, the experience, the 10 years behind him and he's played, those guys listen," said Lee.