If Mark Sanchez posted a 42.9 completion percentage, zero touchdowns, three interceptions and just 10 points, Jets fans would be in the throes of distress.
But those were the numbers of rookie quarterback Geno Smith Thursday night against the Patriots and Jets fans are willing to be patient for now in what was Smith’s second NFL start.
Head coach Rex Ryan is taking a similar approach.
“He was still poised. It wasn’t like he was rattled. I think he was confident. He threw some jump balls up there at the end when you’re trying to force some issues,” Ryan said. “But again, you’re trying to make some plays. I would have liked to see him just take off when we were in field-goal range— just go ahead and run with it instead of trying to force that one ball. Other than that, the young man, for the most part, he delivered some nice passes. We’ve just got to catch them. We had way too many drops.”
Many of the issues are correctable. Rookies often struggle with throwing to the wrong shoulder of targets or having difficulty reading defenses as they adjust to the NFL. But there is an underlying theme from Smith’s advocates that he has a special skillset despite the gaffes.
Where that leaves Sanchez is anyone’s guess. He may or may not have shoulder surgery, a decision that could cost him the season. The usually tight-lipped quarterback told Rich Eisen of the NFL Network on Thursday that he felt he had won the job before he suffered a right shoulder injury in the third preseason game.
It was a rare lashing out moment from Sanchez, one that the head coach who drafted him in the first round in 2009 didn’t berate him for in his Friday conference call.
“Well, what I think, as a competitor, I guess that’s what you expect,” Ryan said. “To have his point of view would be that that’s it. I think with any competitor, you want your players to believe that and if you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody else will. I certainly would expect that from any competitor [to] think that they’re winning the job.”
Jets notes ...
» Ryan would not commit to cornerback Dee Milliner having a starting role with this team next week after a second straight rough game and second-half benching. The Jets took Milliner with the No. 9 overall pick in this past April’s NFL Draft.
“I don’t know. We’ll see. The young man, like I said before, it’s unfortunate that he missed so much work,” Ryan said. “As you guys have pointed out before, all the minicamp rehabbing the shoulder injury, the surgery and then he missed a lot of training camp as well so we kind of just threw him into the fire. He’s an excellent player. He’s going to be an excellent player. I just thought that, at that time, I just thought it was best to sit him down, let him watch it and we’ll go with more experience out there and that’s really what we did. But that’s what this kid’s lacking, is just the NFL experience. He played on about as big of a stage as you can play on.”
»As for Muhammad Wilkerson, the defensive end’s status is uncertain after he had to be helped off the field in the second half after a lower right leg injury.
“No, no injury update on him. I know it’s an ankle. I don’t have any update,” Ryan said. “Again, we’ll give the complete injury report on Wednesday, but I’m not real sure about him.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.