Smith fires downfield
Brad Smith was asked after today's training camp practice if he had taken in "Transformers" in his favorite Long Island cineplex.
" 'Transformers'? Oh, yeah, I love that movie," Smith beamed. "I've seen it about four times."
The reason for the question was because it seems as if the plan this year may be to turn Smith into more of an Autobot to battle the many Decepticons on the Jets' schedule than he was even as a multi-position rookie.
"Sure," Smith said of such a role. "If that's what 'Coach Schott' and Coach Mangini want, and if it's going to help us score, I'd be glad. That'd be nice."
Head coach Eric Mangini isn't laying it all out yet, but for a second day he talked about the reasons he and coordinator Brian Schottenheimer went from turning the Missouri QB into an NFL "slash" into someone who's now frequently wearing a red jersey and lining up behind center in the first three practices of camp.
"I've been thinking about it for a long time," Mangini said. "Last year we gave him a lot of different roles and he did well with all those roles, whether it was special teams, he played some running back, he's played some receiver, he played some quarterback, and I liked where he was going with all those things.
"Now putting him in the quarterback mix, he'll get that learning really from the center out and understand the whole concept of the offense on every play, which now will increase our flexibility if we want to play him 10 plays or whatever we'd like to do. It's not just a specific play that week — he knows the offense."
Mangini, who revealed today that Smith was named the Jets' overall off-season award winner, isn't the only one who's noticed the transformation. So has the No. 1 quarterback.
"It's pretty amazing for a guy to be able to handle everything he has handled," Chad Pennington said. "He came in as a rookie and was asked to learn the receiver position after playing quarterback his whole life, and he made a really good transition. Now he's not only having to learn the details of playing receiver but starting to learn the details of playing quarterback and you see him in both places.
"It's a compliment to him. He's doing an excellent job, working hard, doing what he needs to do to help us win."
Smith is excited about the opportunity, although it's hard to pry his true feelings about playing the position. Reporters tried several different approaches.
What's his true favorite position to play?
"Where I can make plays. Like I said, to help the team is everybody's goal. You put anybody at any position and they're going to do their best to help the team out."
If someone who doesn't know you asks what position you play, what do you tell them?
"I guess whatever I'm listed as, whatever coach wants me to be," he said, seeming genuinely not to know that he is now listed only as a QB, not as a WR or RB.
Smith's throws have gotten slowly better over these few workouts, as has his scrambling. It's all a part of the workload, and of the fact that the only extended QB Smith played since leaving Mizzou after the 2005 season was three unexpected series at the end of the final preseason game vs. Philadelphia last year.
"I just have to learn a little bit more," he said. "I'm learning a more detailed offense. To become a leader of the offense, you need to know what everybody's doing and know how to put guys in the right spots and make the right decisions. I'm getting my footwork back for playing quarterback."
Smith may be a QB now, but how he'll be used remains open for Coach Mangini and Coach Schott. There are restrictions on how you can use your designated second and third quarterbacks in a game. It's conceivable Kellen Clemens, Marques Tuiasosopo and Smith will all remain in play behind Pennington in a given game, with different packages depending on the opponent and on the game plan.
One thing has never changed in Smith's travels around the Green & White offense. He wants whatever wins.
"No, I never gave up on it at all," he said of playing QB when he was drafted by the Jets as a wide receiver. "I felt I had the ability to do it, but I put that to the side. I did what I was asked to do and do whatever it is to try to get better. That's all I know how to do is work hard, come out here every day and get better."
Whatever position the Jets transform him into.