Following the first day of rookie minicamp, Jets quarterback Geno Smith sounded humble and contrite, often hitting on how hard he has worked at getting ready for today. In other words, he sounded nothing like the player who drew negative storylines leading up to the NFL Draft.
Smith was the target of a Pro Football Weekly report just three weeks before the NFL Draft that claimed he was “not a student of the game” and “not committed or focused.” The report played a role in Smith dropping to the Jets in the second round. Reports after the draft claimed Smith interviewed poorly and tweeted during predraft meetings with teams. The fact that he fired his agent last week only exacerbated the perception that Smith lacks maturity.
But on Friday following his first time on the field for the Jets, Smith did his best to erase that perception.
“I don’t think anyone who has worked with me or known me in the past has had anything negative to say. From what I’ve seen coaches and teammates have all said great things about me,” Smith said. “But I’m not focused on that, I’m focused on what I have here with the Jets and proving myself to my teammates and coaches. Like I said, I am trying to improve myself daily.”
It was a rocky first day at work for Smith, who at first glance lacked the composure and finesse in the pocket one would hope to see from a top pick. His downfield accuracy struggled and he bopped around the pocket with a lack of comfort and vision. His short passing game was solid but it is clear Smith is a work in progress.
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The transition could be steep for Smith, despite his gaudy numbers at West Virginia. Operating out of the Airraid offense, Smith was often in the shotgun and will have to adjust to being under center with the Jets.
“[I'll be under center] probably more than recently but it felt like a natural transition,” Smith said. “Obviously there’s some things I need to clean up and I’m going work on that with [quarterback] coach [David] Lee, [offensive coordinator Marty] Mornhinweg. It didn’t feel too odd to me so I think I did a pretty good job.”
With strong athletic ability and a good arm, Smith has the potential to be a solid quarterback for the Jets. His intermediate passes always were right at the numbers of his wide receivers and in college he showed good arm strength.
He earned praise from head coach Rex Ryan for his command of the huddle and Ryan said there were no red flags in the draft process that would back up the claims made about Smith.
"Maybe I don’t know what diva behavior looks like but he didn’t do it here,” Ryan said.
Smith for his part has been putting in an effort to try to distance himself from the negative criticism. He held a meeting with his offensive line last night to go over verbiage in the huddle and he’s spoken with the three other quarterbacks on the Jets roster. In short, he’s doing what he should be doing.
For someone who isn’t supposed to be a student of the game, Smith is doing his best to sound like one.
“I don’t think it was too foreign to me. First of all, I studied my butt off to get prepared for today,” Smith said. “Then there’s more work going into getting ready for tomorrow. It’s going to be a transition but that’s expected. But I’m going to work at it and work my best to get my best foot forward.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.