HOUSTON -- For the second week in a row, Devin Smith was one of the goats in a New York Jets loss. He sat on his locker stool late Sunday afternoon, hunched over, his face buried in his hands. At his side was wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell, who was whispering words of encouragement.
Smith's rookie nightmare continues.
The Jets drafted Smith in the second round because of his ability as a vertical threat, his uncanny knack for tracking deep balls in the air. Late in the third quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick put one up in the air for Smith, a well-thrown deep ball, 46 yards from the Houston Texans' end zone.
It should've been a touchdown, but Smith dropped it -- a huge mistake in the Jets' 24-17 loss at NRG Stadium.
"Our rookies have to stop being rookies," said Todd Bowles, who was really referring to only one rookie. "They need to grow up. They get paid like everybody else and they've got to start acting like they're not in college anymore."
For the mild-mannered Bowles, that qualifies as sharp criticism. This was the second straight game that Smith hurt the Jets with a costly mistake. Remember, there was the fumbled kickoff return against the Buffalo Bills, who returned it for a touchdown last Thursday.
"It's been tough," Smith said of his rookie season. "I know my time is coming. I'm going to keep working hard. When that day comes, everybody will know."
The Jets dressed only five receivers for the game, deciding to make Kenbrell Thompkins -- not Smith -- inactive. At this point in their careers, Thompkins is a better receiver than Smith. Bowles was asked if Smith's draft status played a role in the decision.
"Absolutely not," he said.
Smith didn't exactly own up to his drop, saying he "didn't see it until the last minute. It was a little tough."
Smith was targeted four times, finishing with zero catches. There was another borderline drop. Afterward, he received pep talks from his teammates, including Brandon Marshall, who had two drops of his own.
"They don't want a player to get down, so they came over and talked to me and told me to keep my head up," Smith said.