New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith throws during voluntary minicamp ahead of the NFL football season, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Florham Park, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, left, looks to throw during voluntary minicamp ahead of the NFL football season, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Florham Park, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey — Not long ago, Geno Smith was the exciting new quarterback, the young guy with the big arm who was the future of the Jets.
Two years after New York drafted him in the second round, Smith's status is uncertain.
The Jets hold the No. 6 pick Thursday night, and many fans are hoping Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota ends up on their team.
"You have to expect anything," Smith said Wednesday. "But going out there, I believe this is my team."
While new general manager Mike Maccagnan has addressed several of the team's needs in free agency, the quarterback position could still be a glaring weak spot.
For frustrated Jets fans, that's nothing new. Since Joe Namath's last game with the Jets in 1976, the franchise has been seeking a quarterback who could help lead New York to the Super Bowl. A handful — Richard Todd, Ken O'Brien, Vinny Testaverde, Chad Pennington and Mark Sanchez — have come close, but never sustained the type of success befitting a franchise-type quarterback.
Smith, who replaced an injured Sanchez during training camp in 2013, has 25 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in two seasons, giving him a tenuous hold on the starting job. The Jets traded for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has familiarity with new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system from their days in Buffalo and could be the 28th quarterback to start for the team since Broadway Joe if Smith can't hold him off.
"There are always other guys and there's always going to be competition," Smith said. "I have always welcomed it, and I still do."
Owner Woody Johnson gave Smith a vote of confidence at a charity event in New York on Tuesday night, predicting that he is "going to mature" and not make youthful mistakes anymore. Johnson also noted the performance Smith had in last year's season finale, when he threw for a career-high 358 yards and three TDs with a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating in a win at Miami.
"So, if he can keep that going, we're good," Johnson said. "We're going to get him more targets."
Smith's supporting cast has certainly improved, largely because of the trade with Chicago last month for Brandon Marshall, who will team with Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley to provide a solid group of receivers. The Jets could potentially add to that if Alabama's Amari Cooper or West Virginia's Kevin White is available when New York goes on the clock.
Still, that may not matter much unless the Jets get better play at quarterback, whether from Smith or someone else.
"I don't listen to the outside noise," Smith insisted. "I don't think it's important at all. I don't think it motivates me. I'm motivated by the fact that we need to win."
He knows people are talking about him, though. And much of it isn't necessarily complimentary.
"It's never seeped in and I don't think it ever will," he said. "I just stay steadfast with my beliefs and I just work hard. When it comes down to this team, I believe that we are headed in the right direction and we just have to keep working together and really build up the chemistry in this locker room."
After two years in Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast-style offense, Smith is learning Gailey's system, which is more similar to the spread offense he ran at West Virginia. Smith said it's not "overly complicated," but both he and new coach Todd Bowles acknowledged that there is a lot of progress to be made.
So far, through two practices of voluntary minicamp, things are going just fine.
"He's been positive. He's been accurate, especially in individual drills," Bowles said. "They've got to get their timing down, but it's real early in the process. His spirit is strong, his information gathering is good.
"He's gung-ho and he understands what it takes to lead the team."
NOTES: NT Damon Harrison signed his restricted free agent tender, worth $2.356 million this season. An undrafted free agent out of William Penn in 2012, Harrison has started every game the last two seasons. ... Bowles said there's no timetable on when RB Stevan Ridley will be fully recovered from his knee injury. He was hurt in Week 6 last season while with New England.
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