Extra Points: Round 1 offers no answers in Jets' QB derby

 

The Sports Network

(SportsNetwork.com) - When the red light goes dim and the braggadocio is turned off Rex Ryan has to have some self-reflective moments.

And in those occasions the Jets head coach could be thinking about lasering Mark Sanchez's jersey number off his tattoo of his wife or yearning for the latest edition of "Podophilia Weekly."

My best guess, however, is that Ryan ponders about his job security.

Much was made of the multi-year extension Ryan signed back in January with the Jets but put that deal under a microscope and you will see that Ryan's salary is only fully guaranteed through the 2015 season.

In other words, a 4-12 season could have owner Woody Johnson pulling the plug on Ryan with few financial repercussions.

And that's what makes the Jets quarterback battle between second-year man Geno Smith and veteran pickup Michael Vick so interesting.

T.S. Eliot once said: "Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough."

That seems to be the Jets' thinking when it comes to Smith, the team's second- round pick from a year ago who is coming off an uneven rookie season but one in which the Jets overachieved according to most.

And while the West Virginia product's numbers were average at best, he had few playmakers to work with and his ultimate measuring stick -- wins -- had to be more than what New York hoped for.

Smith also has the backing of general manager John Idzik because let's face it, any NFL personnel chief wants his priority draft picks to succeed.

Ryan, however, probably see things through a different spectrum. He wants and perhaps needs to make a serious run at the postseason in 2014 and most independent observers believe Vick, who turned 34 in June, is a far better option for Ryan right now.

To this point, though, there has been no real open competition at the quarterback position for the Jets. Smith took the vast majority of the first- team snaps in offseason work and that has continued early in training camp.

In Thursday's preseason opener, a 13-10 win over Indianapolis, Smith started and went 4-of-6 for 33 yards and added a 10-yard run.

"We did well as an offense," the second-year pro said. "We put points up on the board, had two drives, got a field goal and, like I said, we won the game."

Conversely Vick finished 3-of-6 for 17 yards and led the Jets to their lone TD drive in the second quarter by flashing his legendary running skills with 19 yards on the ground on three totes.

"It felt good to be back out there, (play in) live-game action (and) have a chance to get out there (and) go against a different defense," Vick said. "It was great. To have a 14-play drive, it only builds your confidence. Hopefully we can continue to build and move forward."

Ryan lauded both of his options.

"I thought Geno played extremely well," Ryan said. "He had a few throw-aways. I thought he did a great job stepping up in the pocket a few times and protecting the ball. I was really pleased with (both) Geno and Mike."

A matured Vick proved to be a leader in Philadelphia even when things weren't going his way and that has continued with the Jets. On Thursday Vick praised his competition while downplaying his own exploits.

"I think Geno did well," Vick said. "He did good enough for coach to pull him out after two good series. Moved the ball down field, got a field goal, got three points and anytime you score some points, it's always a good thing. I think when we go back and watch the film, all the mistakes he made are correctable and I think, at the end of the day, Geno did a good job.

"I did alright. (It) could've been better. I wanted to get some throws down the field, but unfortunately that didn't happen. So, we'll see what happens next week. There's always next week."

Next week means the status quo for Vick, however.

"No, I don't expect that," the veteran said when asked is he would get more first-team reps. "I think the most important thing is to continue to build on what we've created, like I said, building blocks on the foundation. We can't regress.

"We have to continue to move in the right direction and continue to put the best players out there to make the plays and figure out ways to win football games. That's what it's all about."

Whether it's ultimately Smith or Vick at quarterback, one thing is certain, the Jets significantly upgraded the skill-position talent around the prospective signal caller by bringing in former Denver wide receiver Eric Decker and ex-Titans running back Chris Johnson, along with drafting tight end Jace Amaro.

"You see why we're so high on them," Ryan said. "Decker presents that big target, but the thing I like most about him is that he's a team guy. He's competitive. He blocks. He's starting to dig out those safeties.

"As far as Chris Johnson, I'm glad we don't have to defend him. He still has great speed. He made a few plays and got hit a couple of times, but he popped up and had a big smile on his face, so he's ready to roll."

And the quarterbacks?

"We'll just let this thing play out. It's our first preseason game," Ryan said. "Obviously, we know we have two excellent quarterbacks. There's no question about it. We have two quarterbacks who we hope will be great."

Hope being the operative word.

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