CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A review of the hot topics coming out of New York Jets' annual Green & White scrimmage:
Let me start with a concise summary of what unfolded Saturday night: Geno Smith still makes questionable decisions, Michael Vick still runs fast, Stephen Hill still belongs on the all-Cortland team and Rex Ryan's defense still runs the show.
The offense has a lot of work to do. Then again, we already knew that. In a 12-possession scrimmage, the offense failed to reach the end zone, settling for two field goals. You could take the half-full approach and credit the defense -- and I will later -- but I'm not going to exonerate the offense for its goose egg. It could have salvaged some pride late in the scrimmage, but the second unit (led by Smith on this particular drive) failed on four straight plays from the 1-yard line, including three runs by Alex Green. I guess this means there won't be any "We're-the-best-offense-in-the-league" quotes from the locker room -- at least not anytime soon. Ryan downplayed the performance, promising they will score points in the preseason opener. I couldn't tell if his fingers were crossed when he said it.
If this were an open quarterback competition (and we all know it isn't), we would all be saying Vick has a slight edge on Smith, the presumed starter. Smith (7-for-14, 84 yards) was almost intercepted twice and he took a fourth-down sack at the goal line. He telegraphed a sideline pass that should have been a pick-six by Darrin Walls, who dropped an easy interception. In four series (three with the first team), Smith produced only three points. Smith is having a solid camp, so I'm not going to bash him after a mediocre scrimmage, but he certainly wasn't as sharp as he needs to be. His signature play was a 41-yard strike to Hill on a skinny post. Overall, Smith was "pretty decent," Ryan said. No, the coach said, he is not planning to shake up the quarterback rotation in practice; Smith will continue to get the vast majority of the reps.
Vick finished as the leader rusher -- two scrambles for 35 yards. On a 20-yard scramble, he left linebacker Garrett McIntyre in his dust. Vick created some electricity, reminding everyone that he is still a dynamic player with the ball in his hands. "I feel fast," he said. "At 34, it's amazing I feel as good as I do." Vick, known for his durability issues, said he hasn't experienced any soreness in camp, crediting the team's conditioning program. Vick (7-for-13, 47 yards) played four series, including one with the starters, which ended with a field goal. He said he told center Nick Mangold and guard Willie Colon how much he enjoyed playing with the first team, complimenting them on their pass protection. Was he trying to send a message? Ryan loved what he saw from Vick, saying, "Shoot, my gosh, the dude can flat out fly."
The Jets' marquee additions, Eric Decker (one catch for 7 yards) and Chris Johnson (five rushes for 14 yards), were relatively quiet. Johnson admitted to being "a little nervous" because it was the first live contact for his surgically repaired knee. He didn't get a chance to flash his trademark speed in the open field, but he was satisfied with the night, saying, "I wanted to test my knee against full contact and I came out feeling good." Baby steps. Decker caught a slant from Smith on the second play, and that was it. He said he played about 20 plays, but honestly, it didn't seem like that many.
Hill always makes a big play in the Green & White, but he was upstaged by Greg Salas (five catches for 54 yards), who was the best receiver on the field. Yes, he had a drop, but he separated consistently on a variety of routes. Vick gushed about Salas, whom he knows from their days in Philadelphia. Referring to completion over the middle, Vick said, "I can't believe he caught it." Salas is having a terrific camp, making a strong push for a roster spot.
The defense did some crowing after the game, and deservedly so. "I'm pretty sure that goes down as a win in my book," Sheldon Richardson said. It was a big win. Except for the long play to Hill -- cornerback Dimitri Patterson was burned -- the defense was communicated well and didn't miss many tackles, which impressed Ryan. The goal-line stand was "awesome," according to Ryan. Newcomer Jason Babin recorded two sacks. There is reason to be optimistic about the defense, which looks terrific in the front seven, but let's hold the parade. It wasn't exactly challenged by a wide-open passing offense.
A few unheralded players boosted their stock, none more than safety Rontez Miles, who recorded a sack and a pass break-up. The Jets have a crowded safety position, and we haven't seen No. 1 pick Calvin Pryor yet. Miles is a fearless defender who spent last season on the practice squad; he will hit anything that moves.