The worst kept secret in the NFL became official on Wednesday morning when the Jets officially announced on their website that rookie quarterback Geno Smith is the starter for Week 1.
A shoulder injury to incumbent starter Mark Sanchez after he was inserted into the fourth quarter of the third preseason game gifted Smith the starting job by default. It wasn’t an easy preseason for the second-round pick, who picked up an ankle injury in his first preseason game and was then called “brutal” by head coach Rex Ryan following practice. In his only start of preseason, Smith threw three interceptions and had a safety in the third preseason game against the Giants.
Now a job he failed to earn has been handed to him — for now.
“The competition from my understanding is still going. We’re going to compete. That’s what practice is about, that’s what being an athlete is about,” Smith said. “That’s the way you get better, by competing every single day. And that’s something try to do and compete with myself; I try to chase perfection.”
The ankle injury is healing to the point that he is barely notices it in practice.
“I feel great, the ankle is still something that I’m treating. It’s something that is getting better day-by-day,” Smith said. “But overall I feel pretty good. I’ve been able to go out there. I’m practicing well.”
As far as the status of Sanchez, the fifth-year quarterback and former first-round pick, nothing is certain about his right shoulder. He was unable to practice last week and has yet to do so this week, certainly casting doubt on his availability for the Week 2 game at the Patriots.
“When you look at it, clearly with Mark’s injury, the fact that he’s not able to go and things, that factors into any decision,” Ryan said. “But we’re very comfortable with Geno.”
Sanchez did not speak to the media on Wednesday.
The Jets now are throwing the fate of their first regular season game and perhaps the season itself, on the shoulders of an unproven rookie. As his sporadic and ineffective preseason showed, Smith isn’t ready to be the Jets answer quite yet.
But the team is set to rally around him and try to pick up the slack. In fact, the team is posing a front of confidence about their rookie. On a scale of 1 to 10, linebacker Antwan Barnes had to pause before answering about his confidence level in Smith.
“From 1-to-10 it is probably 25,” Barnes said. “I just love the way the guy works, his confidence in himself and he’s ready for the challenge. You can just see it in his eyes every time he goes on the field; he’s just ready to play. I have the utmost confidence in him.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.