“‘Welcome to the NFL,’” Marshall said he told Smith in jest. “About time, you know?”
After a rocky start to his rookie season marred by injury and drops, Smith caught his first touchdown to help the Jets roll over the Dolphins, 38-20, at MetLife Stadium.
Smith rebounded from a disastrous game last week that saw him drop a would-be 46-yard touchdown bomb in the Jets’ loss at Houston. The Ohio State speedster had two catches for 33 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown strike from Ryan Fitzpatrick that pushed the Jets up 14-0 in the second quarter.
Upon making the first touchdown catch of his NFL career, Smith was mobbed by teammates in the end zone. All week long, veterans like Marshall had been in Smith’s ear to make sure the rookie did not fall into a mental abyss and fail to rebound from last Sunday’s loss.
“He had a tough week and rightfully so,” Marshall said. “He read some of that stuff (written about his struggles), heard some of that stuff but he responded amazingly. We need him because there are teams that double myself, double (Eric Decker), if we can get him rolling like he did today, that will be really good for our offense and team. I am proud of him and he deserves it.”
Marshall said he had to make more plays and he held up his end of the bargain with nine receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Decker added five catches for 62 yards and one touchdown.
“There is no ‘I’ in team but I get paid a lot of money to make plays and if I feel like if I just do my job, it may be the difference,” Marshall said. “Go back to the Patriots game, and that back-shoulder throw, if I catch that ball we probably win the game.”
Smith certainly has his share of regrets this season. Drafted in the second round to stretch the field with his big-play ability, Smith missed most of the preseason when he suffered broken ribs and a partially punctured lung while making an impressive catch early in camp.
He fumbled a kickoff return in a loss to Buffalo that led to a Bills’ touchdown. And then after Smith dropped two passes at Houston Texans, head coach Todd Bowles said the rookies on the team needed to grow up and stop playing like rookies.
“I knew my time was coming so I wasn’t too worried about it,” Smith said about staying upbeat this past week. “But those two drops that I did have, any football player would be upset about that. All the guys told me don’t worry about it. Just keep moving forward.”
Now the Jets are excited about the prospects of their explosive rookie contributing more from here on out.
“It was such a trust throw,” Fitzpatrick said of his touchdown to Smith. “He had to cross the face of an inside-leverage corner and he goes up and makes a great catch. All week people kept asking me about him and he’s a guy that has played in big football games and made a lot of great plays (at Ohio State).
“So his emergence and just the fact that he is going to continue to get better is really going to help us.”