Archive for September, 2013

Jets routed by Titans, 38-13

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Nashville, TN – With the defense playing about as well as anyone could have hoped through three games, the powers at be knew the Jets would go only as far as their rookie quarterback could take them.

After a four turnover, 10 penalty, 38-13, beat down at the hands of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, Geno Smith certainly did more to harm his team than help it.

“We just got our butts kicked,” said Rex Ryan, visibly disgusted with the way his team performed in Nashville.

Geno Smith struggled mightily against the Titans on Sunday, accounting for four turnovers, including four fumbles.

After having his best game as a pro in Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills, Smith appeared to take a step backward against the Titans, committing four turnovers, including two fumbles, while passing for 289 yards and one touchdown.

Smith struggled early and often, getting picked off by Alterraun Verner on a pass intended for Stephen Hill on the second play of the game. Hill sustained a head injury on the play and would not return.

Things officially unraveled for Smith in the four quarter when he appeared to change hands with the ball, behind his back, while getting sacked, fumbling in the end zone and having it picked up for a Titans touchdown.

Of the 38 points the Titans scored, 28 of them came directly as a result of a Jets’ turnover.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the way I took care of the ball today. I was piss poor,” said Smith.

After the game, Ryan assured reporters that Geno Smith will be at the helm moving forward, taking offense to the criticism being heaped on his young starter.

“How often can we make that excuse?” said Ryan about blaming the struggling rookie. “I think we’re unfairly criticizing one man. The Tennessee Titans beat everyone. They didn’t just line up against Geno Smith.”

The sloppy play did indeed extend well beyond Smith, as the Jets were penalized 10 more times on Sunday. That, after a week of push-ups and a record 20 penalties against the Bills.

“It shocks me. I never expected the game to turn out like this. I’m shocked. I don’t know what else to say,” said Ryan. “Come hell or high water, it’s going to get fixed.”

The defense was again stellar against the run, limiting another big-time running back to under 100 yards, as Chris Johnson finished with 21 yards on 15 carries.

Titans quarterback Jake Locker left the game in the third quarter after getting hit by Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, suffering what appeared to be a serious hip injury. Locker was carted off the field and did not return after throwing a career high three touchdowns.

The Jets will be in the Georgia Dome next week for a Monday Night Football match-up against the Atlanta Falcons.

“It’s a butt whooping. We took it,” said Willie Colon. “We have to own it.”

Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison feasting on competition

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – In a defensive front that includes three former first round picks, Damon Harrison could easily have become an afterthought.

Instead, the undrafted defensive tackle out of William Penn University is the talk of a revamped Jets defense.

“He’s playing lights-out football for us,” said veteran linebacker David Harris. “He’s a huge part of this defense.”

At 350 pounds, Damon “Big Snacks” Harrison, as he’s affectionately been nicknamed, is definitely a huge part of the Jets defense in more ways than one.

Playing only a few plays in five games a year ago, Harrison took a big step forward in the offseason, training with friend and teammate Kendrick Ellis.

Ellis, a third round pick in 2011, was the projected starter at nose tackle heading into the season, impressing head coach Rex Ryan during training camp. Snacks stepped in as the starter only after Ellis injured his back and was sidelined indefinitely.

Wally Pipping his friend, so to speak.

“Sometimes adversity to somebody gives opportunity to others,” said Ryan on Wednesday. “Obviously, Snacks has taken advantage of it and is doing a tremendous job.”

Harrison hasn’t just been an adequate fill in, either. Pro Football Focus rates him as a top-5 defensive tackle, naming him as the top interior defensive lineman in all of football for Week 3.

“He’s probably one of the best nose tackles in the league, in my opinion,” said fellow undrafted defensive lineman Leger Douzable. “You can’t really put one person on him and block him, it’s not going to happen. He’s made a big impact, especially in the run.”

An effective run stuffer, even a fantastic one, is not the most high profile gig on a football team, as casual fans tend to key in on flashier defensive plays like sacks and interceptions.

But Harrison’s presence in the trenches has paved the way for a revival on the defensive front, turning around the 26th best unit against the run a year ago, into a run stuffing, playmaking machine.

And while Ellis isn’t the starter anymore, his slow return to the lineup gives the Jets quality depth and scary potential.

“I give a lot of credit to that defensive line, especially Kendrick Ellis and Damon Harrison,” said Harris, who had perhaps the best game of his seven-year career against the Bills, thanks in part to the effort of the guys up front. “They’re keeping guys off of me and taking up double teams so it allows me to run free to the ball. I give all the credit to the d-line.”

After three weeks, Football Outsiders ranked the Jets defensive line second best in the league against the run based on adjusted line yards, a massive jump from a year ago when they were ranked 19th.

Harrison’s story is reminiscent of ex-Jet, and fan favorite, Sione Pouha, a big nose tackle who stepped into the spotlight after Kris Jenkins went down with an ACL injury.

“I tried to emulate everything that he did,” said Harrison of Pouha. The two played together a year ago and still keep in touch, according to Harrison.

But most of all, it’s been an increase in experience and confidence that has keyed Snacks’ breakout.

“I know exactly what I’m supposed to do,” said Harrison. “Last year I was having problems with that … the coaches didn’t have as much confidence in me because I wasn’t confident in myself. But now, this year, I know what I’m doing and I’m a whole lot more confident.”

And, boy, does it show.

Great expectations: Jets are silencing doubters

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets were a bad football team a year ago.

Like inventing a new word for bad, bad.

They were 28th in the league in offense, 30th in passing and their usually dominant defense sprung leaks, ranking 26th against the run.

Football Outsiders ranked the Jets 27th in total DVOA and they missed the playoffs for the second straight time in the Rex Ryan era.

But that was last season, and like a decaying zombie corpse that just won’t die (no matter how many times you beat it over the head with a shovel), the Jets are finding out that the stench of the buttfumble will be hard to outrun.

“A lot has been said about this football team,” Ryan said before the season started. “There are a lot of non-believers out there.”

Rex Ryan is quietly proving why the Jets are far from the worst team in the league.

And there still are. But after a surprising 2-1 start, it’s time to entertain the possibility that the Jets are, well, a decent football team.

On Thursday, Ryan was confronted with that possibility when asked why he hasn’t chosen to revel in the team’s recent success.

“We’ll see,” he said with a smirk and a nod of his head, the old defiant Rex bubbling up to the surface. “There’s a long season ahead. I think I know what it’s going to look like but we’ll see.”

Yes, it’s a small sample size and, yes, one of those wins came on a last minute penalty and the other in spite of a team-record 20 penalties, but the Jets look vastly improved in several key areas, most notably on the defensive line and at quarterback.

A season ago, nose tackle Sione Pouha struggled with a back injury and the run defense suffered along with him – not so this season. In three games, the Jets defensive line is second best in all of football according to Football Outsiders, allowing an average of 79 rushing yards per game, which includes a 59-yard run by Bills running back Fred Jackson on a missed tackle.

Otherwise, the Jets have been dominate against the run, with undrafted nose tackle Damon Harrison being an impressive surprise amongst first round talent in Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson.

Despite his one solo tackle against the Bills, “Snacks” was moving blockers all over the place, grading out as one of the top defensive tackles in the league by Pro Football Focus.

Then there’s Eugene Smith, who despite seven rookie-type turnovers, has done just enough to get the Jets offense off the ground.

Last season, Mark Sanchez was the worst quarterback in the league. And not like the hyperbolic, talk radio, Skip Bayless kind of  “worst.” Literally, he was the worst quarterback in the league, ranking 36th in total QBR behind the likes of Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel.

Think about that. Worse than Brandon Weeden.

Sure, Geno has benefited from the return of Santonio Holmes, an improved offensive line and Marty Mornhinweg’s system, but his QBR through three games is almost double that of Sanchez’s and is currently better than Robert Griffin III, Eli Manning and Sam Bradford.

It’s clear now, Smith is a big upgrade over Sanchez. He has the ability to extend plays and take shots downfield. The 331 pass yards he hurled against the Bills didn’t seem like a fluke and if he continues to improve the offense could be miles better than a year ago – let’s face it, it already is.

The Jets know what’s been said about them, from circus-talk to 32nd in the power rankings and dreams of Jadeveon Clowney.

“We knew that people weren’t going to give us much of a chance,” said Leger Douzable, another surprising member of that improved defensive front. “We want for people to continue to not give us a chance because we love proving people wrong.”

Well, the Jets might not be sneaking up on people for much longer. Football Outsiders has their current mean win total at 8.7 after 50,000 simulations, meaning the Jets are shockingly projected to be in the 8-9 win range – within playoff striking distance.

Currently, Football Outsiders has the Jets playoff probability at 35 percent (which is up 14.7 percent from last week) and while that may not be realistic, it’s clear now, and for the foreseeable future, that the Jets are no longer a laughing stock.

“People are starting to talk about us,” said Douzable. “But we don’t want to listen to that we just want to get better.”

Preview: Jets (1-1) vs. Buffalo Bills (1-1)

Friday, September 20th, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – After a solid preseason debut, Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel got a congratulatory text message from a childhood friend and fellow rookie – Geno Smith.

Santonio Holmes' message to the other Jets receivers.."Catch the ball!" (JetsInsider.com Photo)

The two young starters met at football camp in high school and stayed in touch throughout college and during the draft process, where they were the top two quarterbacks taken.

On Sunday, they will be competitors and division rivals, as the Bills (1-1) travel to MetLife Stadium to take on the Jets (1-1) in a pivotal early season matchup.

“We’ll both be competing against each other,” said Manuel. “I want to win just as bad as he does.”

The two times the Jets and Buffalo Bills faced off last season were something of a Jekyll and Hyde story for the guys in green.

In bookending games against Buffalo, Week 1 and Week 17, Mark Sanchez threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-28 win, but after 14 games that included the buttfumble and a brief benching, he closed the season with a two fumble, one interception performance in a 28-9 loss.

WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, 4:25 p.m. EST (TV – CBS, Radio – ESPN NY, 98.7 FM)

WHERE: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

INJURY REPORT (as of Thursday):

Jets: Kendrick Ellis (back) limited, Willie Colon (knee) full practice, Oday Aboushi (knee) limited, Quinton Coples (ankle) limited, Antonio Cromartie (hip) full practice, Clyde Gates (knee) full practice, Stephen Hill (knee) full practice, Santonio Holmes (foot) did not practice, Austin Howard (ribs) full practice, Jeremy Kerley (concussion) full practice, Garrett McIntyre (knee) full practice, Bilal Powell (illness) full practice, Sheldon Richardson (shoulder) limited, Geno Smith (ankle) full practice,Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) full practice, Kellen Winslow (knee) limited

Bills: Doug Legursky (knee) limited, Jairus Byrd (foot) limited, Ron Brooks (foot) did not practice, Stephon Gilmore (wrist) did not practice, Marquise Goodwin (hand) did not practice, Dustin Hopkins (right groin) did not practice

WHAT TO WHAT FOR:

Fantasy stoppers: In consecutive weeks, the Jets defense shut down two notable fantasy running backs in Doug Martin (65 yards) and Steven Ridley (40 yards). Next up: CJ Spiller. In two games this season, Spiller has averaged 4.4 yards a carry, including a 104 yard performance against an improved Carolina front seven. The Jets defense, however, has allowed an average of 59.5 rushing yards per game and is ranked third in the league by Football Outsiders based on Value Over Average. Football Outsiders also ranked the defensive line as fourth best and second-year defensive tackle Damon Harrison has the second best run stop percentage in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Let’s see if the Jets can make fantasy owners unhappy for a third week in a row.

Rex vs. the Rook: On Wednesday, Ryan confirmed that the Jets were very impressed with EJ Manuel before the draft in April but don’t expect him to go easy on the rookie once the game starts. “Maybe a little bit,” Ryan said, playing coy when asked if he was excited to face a rookie. “I’d much rather face a rookie quarterback than Tom Brady.” After facing Brady a week ago, look for Rex to really try and create problems for the inexperienced Manuel.

Old ties: If you happen to glance at the Bills sideline on Sunday you might see a familiar face in former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. He left for Buffalo in the off season and has undoubtedly been giving Bills players tips wherever he can, not to mention the fact that he essentially runs the same defense as Ryan. “It’s out of the same book,” Ryan said on Wednesday, referring to similarities between Pettine’s defense and his own. Ryan also took some playful shots at his friend and former colleague: “Obviously, I’ll look better than Pettite,” he said. “In fact, I might weigh less than him now. I’m just throwing it out there.”

X-Factor:

Catch the ball: The performance of the Jets pass catchers might as well be the x-factor for the rest of the season. The defense will always be competitive, the offensive line and running game look to be improved and, as a rookie, Smith will have his ups and downs. But the team won’t win very many games if the receivers can’t hold on to the ball. Against the Patriots, they dropped six passes, including a touchdown. When asked if he had any pointers for the Jets wide receivers, Santonio Holmes said, “Yeah, catch the ball.”

Prediction: The defense will do enough to contain Spiller and Manuel and the return of Jeremy Kerley (concussion) will help Geno and the Jets offense to edge out a win against the Bills, 23-17.

Jets were interested in EJ Manuel before draft

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

The Jets chose Geno Smith as the quarterback of the future – but they almost went with EJ Manuel.

Florham Park, NJ – Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel could’ve been a New York Jet.

In fact, he expected to be.

“Definitely,” Manuel said, when asked if he thought the Jets might draft him.

“I did think they were one of the teams that were very interested in me. I guess they just wanted to wait and go with a quarterback with their second round pick instead of their first two.”

That’s exactly what happened, as the Jets passed on Manuel with the ninth and 13th overall selections, allowing the Bills to nab him with the 16th pick. The Jets and new general manager John Idzik then snatched current starting quarterback Geno Smith with the seventh pick in the second round.

But that doesn’t mean the Jets weren’t interested in Manuel as well, bringing him in on one of their 30 out-of-town player visits before the draft.

“I had quite a bit [of contact with the Jets]. I met with coach [Rex] Ryan and a lot of their staff. I went up to the facility for a visit and I liked it a lot up there,” said Manuel. “I thought [the coaches] liked me a lot, and it just so happens that they didn’t choose me.”

In reality, the Jets didn’t pass on Manuel as much as the Bills pounced on him earlier than anyone expected.

Heading into last April’s NFL draft, the 6 foot 4, 237 pound senior out of Florida State was considered a second-round talent at best, that is, until the Bills shocked much of the football world taking him in the top half of the first round.

After two games, that move seems to have paid off for the Bills.

Ryan and the Jets will get their first hack at trying and stop Manuel and a young Bills offense on Sunday. An offense that took the New England Patriots down to the wire, mounted a comeback win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers and is ranked 10th in the league in Value Over Average by Football Outsiders.

On Wednesday, head coach Rex Ryan compared Manuel’s size and ability to Newton, a former No. 1 overall pick.

“I remember looking at Cam Newton once and thinking, ‘who is going to tackle him?’” said Ryan. “You kind of look at EJ Manuel the same way.”

It’s far too early, however, for the Jets to second-guess themselves for passing up on Manuel in the first. Especially when Smith has shown flashes of competency with much less talent around him —  and came almost a full round cheaper.

Nevertheless, the division rival Jets and Bills, and the futures of their rookie quarterbacks, seem to be linked for the foreseeable future.

“We definitely did our due diligence on [Manuel],” Ryan confirmed on Wednesday. “He was an outstanding young man, very impressive, no doubt … you can see why Buffalo is excited about him. He certainly was a guy we were looking at.”

Kellen Winslow proving he’s here to stay

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Kellen Winslow celebrates after catching a touchdown pass from quarterback Geno Smith. It was Smith's first TD pass as a professional.

Florham Park, NJ – As quarterback Geno Smith was celebrating in the aftermath of Nick Folk’s game winning field goal on Sunday, one player in particular came over to congratulate him.

Smith’s arms were outstretched like a Baptist preacher as tight end Kellen Winslow approached, slapping his rookie quarterback on the green number seven stitched into his jersey before wrapping him up in a bear hug.

It was a big moment for both of them.

Winslow has not played a full NFL season since 2011 when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team he and his new quarterback managed to beat on Sunday.

“I was real emotional before the game. I had to control myself,” said Winslow in the locker room afterward.

After being drafted sixth overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2004, Winslow spent three years with the Bucs before getting traded to the Seattle Seahawks in May 2012.

Winslow was, and is still, critical of the Seahawks for unceremoniously cutting him following training camp in 2012. After that, he managed to resurface for one more game with the New England Patriots before getting cut again.

That is, until Sunday.

“For some reason I just feel like I’ve been here before in this game,” he said. “I’ve been envisioning it for so long that, I don’t know how to explain it, but I was just ready for the game. [It was] real emotional. I was just prepared.”

The Jets took a flier on the veteran tight end this past offseason after losing Dustin Keller to the Miami Dolphins via free agency. And like a young Mark Sanchez did with Keller in his first few seasons, Geno Smith, at least initially, has made Winslow his target of choice – his safety blanket.

In Sunday’s win over the Bucs, Winslow was targeted eight times, leading the team with seven completions and 79 receiving yards. He’ll also go down as the player to catch Smith’s first touchdown pass, a seven yard strike, as well as the crucial 25-yarder, which set up Smith’s scramble, Levonte David’s personal foul penalty and Nick Folk’s game winning field goal.

“Kellen always tells me, ‘If you’re scrambling, if you’re ever breaking the pocket, just find me. I’ll find you and get open,’” said Smith after the game.

In recent years especially, tight ends have become a popular offensive weapon. Just look at the Saints with Jimmy Graham or the Patriots of 2011 and 2012. Tight ends dominated so often in 2011 that it was dubbed “the year of the tight end” by some.

That time may be coming to an end, but it’s always been a common axiom that tight ends are a quarterback’s best friend, especially for young ones. Sanchez and Keller come to mind from 2009-2011.

In Sanchez’s first three seasons, Keller was targeted 298 times, 102 more times than any other receiver on the team. It’s been one game, and Smith and Winslow aren’t close to that level just yet, but their chemistry is evident.

“He knows how to get open in zones. He constantly got open all night,” said Smith. “He really had a big game for us. He’s one of the main reasons why we were able to pull it out late – because he was able to find those windows and sit down for me.”

Winslow’s performance hasn’t gone unnoticed by head coach Rex Ryan, either.

“I remember Kellen when he was just coming out in the Cleveland days and we had to go against him. I had some of those nightmares,” said Ryan. “As soon as the name pops out you’re intrigued, but then when he gets here and you realize this guy still has great receiving skills, he’s smart, he’s a warrior — to quote himself — that’s his mentality.”

“Is he as good as he once was? Maybe not, but he’s pretty darn good.”

On Thursday, Winslow, Smith and the Jets will roll into Foxborough for a nationally televised bout against the Patriots. The last time that happened, well, most people can’t help but remember.

It’s been played on loop for 40 consecutive weeks as the king of ESPN’s “Not Top 10.”

But Smith and Winslow weren’t on the team then and they’re hoping to change a few things.

“It motivates me when guys think they’re better than me,” said Winslow. “When it’s clutch time and it’s time to play, that’s what I live for man. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t want to let these guys down and vice versa. That’s what it’s all about.”

Jets stun Bucs, 18-17, in final seconds

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

East Rutherford, NJ – When rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson saw his quarterback get shoved out of bounds in the final seconds of Sunday’s season opener, he had some choice words for the Tampa Bay defender.

Jets TE Kellen Winslow celebrates his first TD as a Jet against Bucs. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

“There was a little explicit language towards the guy that hit him. I’m just going to leave it at that,” said Richardson, who was standing on the Jets’ sideline when Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David tackled quarterback Geno Smith as he was falling out of bounds.

“Then I saw the flag go and I didn’t care anymore. Picked my boy up, we kicked the field goal and we won.”

It was Nick Folk’s 48-yard field goal with two seconds remaining that won the game for the Jets, 18-17, at MetLife Stadium, but it was Smith’s scramble and David’s ill-advised personal foul penalty that made it all possible.

After dominating for most of the game, the Jets defense, specifically safety Dawan Landry who whiffed on a tackle, gave up a crucial 37-yard completion to Vincent Jackson with under two minutes remaining. The Bucs then hit a 37-yard field goal, all but sealing the second opening day defeat in the Rex Ryan era.

But down by two with 29 seconds left, Smith hit tight end Kellen Winslow with a 25 yard pass. Then, after stopping the clock, Smith scampered out of the pocket to avoid the Tampa Bay pass rush.

With time running out, he tucked the ball and sprinted for the sideline, hoping, perhaps, for one last-ditch attempt at the end zone – that’s when David came flying in and pushed him.

The flags flew and all of a sudden, the Jets had hope.

Richardson was so excited upon seeing the flag that he jumped out onto the field without a helmet, drawing a comment from a familiar face – Darrelle Revis.

“You all the way out on the field aren’t you?” Revis said, to which Richardson responded, “Hey man, we’re trying to win, simple as that.”

Smith’s 10-yard scramble, along with the 15-yard penalty, put the Jets at the Tampa Bay 30-yard line where Folk nailed the game winner.

“At the time I was like, ‘Holy cow! We’ve got a shot,’” said head coach Rex Ryan after seeing the penalty. “I’ll say this, the kid [Smith] showed a great deal of poise.”

Smith finished an up-and-down day completing 63 percent of his passes for 256 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a lost fumble. He also led the team in rushing with 47 yards on the ground.

He was far from perfect, but Smith showed glimpses of promise, especially in the fourth quarter when he led the team on two scoring drives without turning the ball over. The Jets have to be pleased with Smith’s performance and with the recent reports of Mark Sanchez’s injury — he has a torn labrum and could be out indefinitely — it looks like Smith is in it for the long haul.

After the game, Smith was confident and saying all the right things.

“I feel the same,” he said after being asked about his emotions following his first win as an NFL quarterback. “My emotions never change.”

“It’s good to get a win for the Jets. It’s not about me; it’s about my teammates and about this organization,” he said. “We have to put this one behind us and prepare for a tough game coming up on Thursday night.”

The Jets have a quick turnaround, facing Tom Brady and the rival New England Patriots in Foxborough on Thursday. With all the criticism the Jets have faced recently, a win against the Patriots could be monumental.

“I take heat, there’s no question,” said Ryan after the game. “We’re all taking heat from the outside, but inside our walls we just try to get better every day. We’re competing and we’re building a team. When you go in that locker room you’ll see it.”

The win wasn’t pretty, but it was a win nonetheless, and the Jets, with a new starting quarterback in toe, seem to be gelling in spite of the negativity.

“Whether that’s reported or not to the general population, I don’t know. That’s up to somebody else,” said Ryan of his team’s chemistry. “This team is special. How many wins that is? I don’t know. I don’t know what that will mean. But I know one thing, we’re going for it.”

Rex Ryan of old makes an unexpected appearance

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Rex Ryan has been a shell of his former self as of late, but on Wednesday a glimmer of the old Rex shot through -- if only for a second.

Florham Park, NJ – When Rex Ryan rolled into town four seasons ago, he was gruff and unapologetic. He had Super Bowl aspirations, a highly touted rookie quarterback and a top-notch defense.

But as the bombast grew stale and the playoff returns diminished so did Ryan (literally and figuratively).

The old Rex, presumed dead, is now a person of the past, whittled away by unfulfilled guarantees, questionable coaching calls and an upper management muzzle. The man who stood at the podium on his first day, proclaiming he wasn’t going to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings, neutered, offering up only misdirections and disguised coverages.

So, it’s only fitting that on the day Ryan announced the starting of his second rookie quarterback in five seasons, he got back to his roots — if only for a second.

“A lot has been said about this football team,” he said before returning to his now patented coach speak. “There are a lot of non-believers out there.”

In that moment, he sounded confident, and although he wouldn’t say much else, you couldn’t help but sense a “you’ll see, you’ll all see” attitude pushing its way to the surface.

“We’re not hiding,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of team we have.”

Whether or not Ryan has the talent to prove the critics wrong is another story, however.

On Wednesday, the Jets announced that Geno Smith will indeed be the starter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite underperforming in his only extended preseason action. Mark Sanchez is still injured after being left in during the fourth quarter of preseason game. He walked into the locker room on Wednesday, only to turn around and not be seen again.

The entire Jets brain trust also made an appearance with both Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik stressing the mantra of “competition.”

“The [quarterback] competition is not finished … The competition is ongoing,” said Johnson, making the cloud of confusion surrounding the team’s most important position all the more murky.

Idzik clarified by saying that the competition at every position is ongoing, which sounds more like an escape plan should things go wrong with Geno than a team-wide motivational tactic.

Still, the team seems to have a chip on it’s shoulder. Even Santonio Holmes, who hasn’t been optimistic about his return to the line-up, broke through his rehearsed routine when asked if the team is being underestimated.

“Right now in the power rankings, we’re ranking No. 32 in the NFL,” he said, referring to ESPN’s weekly rankings. “I think we probably couldn’t be happier than being off the radar of everybody.”

“We have a focus that’s on the team not on what everybody else thinks this team should be. We have a focus and a goal in mind to have the best 53 guys on this roster and go on and win with these guys that we have.”

As Holmes does, Ryan knows now more than ever what the non-believers are saying about his commitment to the team and his coaching ability. And no matter how hard  Idzik, or Ryan himself has tried to suppress it, the old Rex showed up on Wednesday.

As a glimmer of man not ready to go down without a fight.

Geno Smith to start Week 1

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

After a contentious quarterback battle that last through training camp and throughout the preseason Geno Smith will be the Jets Week 1 starter.

Geno Smith will start Week 1 against the Tampa Buccaneers, the Jets announced Wednesday.

The second round pick out of West Virginia officially won the starting job after Mark Sanchez injured his throwing shoulder against the Giants in the fourth quarter of the third preseason game.

The last time the Jets started a rookie quarterback to start a season was back in 2009 when — guess who — Mark Sanchez took them to the AFC Championship game in head coach Rex Ryan’s first season.

The decision to give Smith the job could spell the end of Sanchez’s time in New York as he is expected to be out at least the first two weeks. By that point, Smith could be entrenched as the quarterback of the future, or at least for the remainder of the season.