FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- What we learned on Saturday, Day 3 of New York Jets training camp:
1. Fans want to believe in Geno Smith: It has been only two days, and we're talking about a small sample size (about 1,500 per day), but the crowds at practice have been supportive. When backup Ryan Fitzpatrick fumbled a snap, a brief chant of "Ge-no! Ge-no!" broke out. The fan base is so desperate for a big-time quarterback that it appears willing to cut some slack for oft-embattled Smith. Then again, he hasn't given them any reason to boo -- no interceptions yet. Asked about the training-camp cheers, Smith said, "It makes no difference to me. I've been playing football my entire life and I know the ups and downs." In other words, he knows the same fans will be screaming for his head as soon as he throws a pick in the regular season.
2. Dee Milliner lives! The former first-round pick was in pads for the first time since last October, when he blew out his Achilles' tendon in a game against the Denver Broncos. Milliner returned to team drills and performed reasonably well, considering the long layoff. "I'm good," he said. "I'm back. Finally." This is a significant development; if Milliner is healthy and in shape for the regular season, it'll create great depth at cornerback. He passed the initial eye test, according to Todd Bowles, who said Milliner didn't have any mental errors. He made a nice pass break-up on a deep ball.
3. Clarity on the Smith injury: On Friday night, the Jets said rookie wide receiver Devin Smith would miss the "majority" of camp with broken ribs. Turns out he also has a partially punctured lung, which explains why he has spent two days in the hospital. Bowles offered a specific timetable, saying four to six weeks. Given that time frame, the best-case scenario is Smith returns for the final preseason game. Even if he returns by then, he will be far behind in terms of grasping his first NFL playbook. The wide receiver position in Chan Gailey's offense isn't easy to master because it involves a lot of option routes, requiring the receivers to adjust their routes based on the coverage. The silver lining: They can always ask him to stick with his bread and butter, running "go" routes. Nothing too sophisticated about that.
4. Bowles has high standard for his defense: He didn't seem particularly pleased with the unit, saying they wore down in the first padded practice of camp. "They need to get in better shape," he said. At the end of practice, the defense was required to run gassers after losing a competition period to the offense, which took great delight in a rare victory.
5. Miracles do happen: After three practices, the top two quarterbacks -- Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick -- have yet to throw an interception in team drills. Reminded of that, Bowles smiled and said, "Don't jinx me. Shhhh. Don't say anything." Sorry, but a few props are in order. Smith enjoyed his best day, completing 10 of 15 passes. He found Chris Owusu for a long touchdown (Antonio Cromartie was victimized) and he made nice decisions in the red zone. Fitzpatrick (6-for-11) was less impressive, but you could tell he's a savvy veteran. He knows exactly where the ball should go on every play. Rookie Bryce Petty continued his growing pains. His mechanics are bit off. As Bowles explained, Petty's upper body is moving slower than his lower body. The kid was "gun happy and gung-ho" at the start of camp, according to Bowles. Never heard it explained quite that way.
6. Mike Maccagnan is no Rex Ryan when it comes to praising players in contract negotiations: Back in the day, Ryan was known for stacking up the superlatives when discussing his favorite players, even if those players happened to be at the bargaining tables. (Darrelle Revis comes to mind, circa 2010.) Ryan's over-the-top praise sometimes hurt the team in negotiations. In that respect, Maccagnan is the anti-Rex. Mindful of his ongoing negotiations with Muhammad Wilkerson, Maccagnan was light-lipped when discussing Wilkerson's value to the team. Pressed, he finally acknowledged that Wilkerson is "a very good player." A special player? No, he didn't go that far. The GM said the two sides agreed not to discuss the talks in the media. It's also possible the discussions have reached a sensitive stage.