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Jets OC says top priority is to continue Smith's progession

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The Canadian Press
4/29/2014 5:47:41 PM
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NEW YORK -- Geno Smith is still No. 1 for the New York Jets.

For the moment.

Whether it's the second-year quarterback's job to lose, well, offensive co-ordinator Marty Mornhinweg will see what effect Michael Vick has in what's expected to be a hotly contested competition this summer.

"We brought Mike in to compete, to push Geno and to make Geno the very best he can make him, and I wanted to make sure Mike was ready for that," Mornhinweg said during a conference call Tuesday.

"I think this thing is going to work beautifully. We'll see."

Smith started all 16 games for the Jets after incumbent Mark Sanchez was lost for the year after injuring his shoulder in the preseason.

It was a roller-coaster ride for Smith and the Jets, as the young quarterback led four comeback victories in the fourth quarter or overtime in his first nine games, but then struggled mightily with six interceptions and no touchdowns in three straight losses.

He bounced back with a solid final four games, with only two turnovers while leading the Jets to three wins and an 8-8 finish.

"We're going to structure it a certain way," Mornhinweg said. "One thing I want to make sure of, that nothing impedes the young quarterback's progression. I'm talking about Geno. He progressed beautifully, and I'm talking the last quarter of the season. Played like a winning quarterback, played at a high level."

Not surprisingly, Mornhinweg acknowledged that Smith will take the first snaps with the starting offence when the team begins on-field practices in a few weeks. The Jets did the same last spring with Sanchez getting the first snaps over Smith.

"Geno will get a few more reps, but not many (more)," Mornhinweg said. "I'm going to try to do this thing right, and it'll vary day to day, much like I've done it in the past."

Smith said last week he's taking the approach that he's the starter, and Vick acknowledged that when he signed with New York last month.

But that doesn't mean Vick will be resigned to the fact he will be the backup, and that's one reason Mornhinweg was happy to be reunited with the veteran after their four seasons together in Philadelphia.

"He has a really important role here," he said of Vick. "He's 33 years old, and he's still got it. I look at him as a young 33. He's still got it. ... When he's called upon to play, I've got great confidence in Mike."

And, if it turns out it's in a mentor-type role as it was for Vick last year with Nick Foles in Philadelphia, Mornhinweg anticipates no issues.

"Mike's going to handle that real well," he said. "He's going to do the right thing."

Vick is extremely familiar with Mornhinweg's system, theoretically giving the Jets two starting-calibre quarterbacks who can run the offence with little drop-off in case of injury or ineffectiveness.

"I would expect Geno to progress at a high rate with Mike's help," Mornhinweg said. "I want to get Mike back comfortable with our terminology, with our system, exactly how we want these things done, so it's just that simple.

Vick isn't the only newcomer to an offence that finished 25th overall and struggled with consistency last season.

The Jets signed former Titans star Chris Johnson to bolster the backfield and former Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker to upgrade perhaps the team's weakest spot a year ago.

Mornhinweg is intrigued by the pass-catching ability Johnson has, but also believes he can be the "electric, dynamic" type of running back he was during his best years in Tennessee now that he's healthy.

"That's a pretty good little 1-2 punch," Mornhinweg said of the Chris Ivory-Johnson pairing.

Decker had 87 receptions for 11 touchdowns last season while catching passes from Peyton Manning.

Meanwhile, the Jets' leading receiver was Jeremy Kerley with 43 catches, and it was clear New York would need to get better at the position through free agency -- they also signed Jacoby Ford -- and the draft.

"Last year," Mornhinweg said, "I thought was quite possibly the start of something special."

NOTES: Defensive co-ordinator Dennis Thurman said "the sky's the limit" for Dee Milliner, the Jets' top pick last year who will assume the No. 1 CB spot with the departure of Antonio Cromartie. Milliner struggled at times while dealing with injuries, but Thurman believes he can become "a very good corner." ... While cornerback remains a potential target in the first round, Thurman expressed confidence in his current group. "I'm comfortable with our cornerback situation," he said. "We have guys who can play."

Geno Smith (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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