Perhaps Michael Vick's presence will end up being the best thing for Geno Smith.
Contrary to a recent report, which claimed some Jets coaches "privately expressed disappointment'' that Vick wasn't more "hell-bent'' on winning the starting quarterback job, people within the building have raved -- on the record -- about the former Eagle's value to the organization and his integral role in grooming Smith.
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"I'm just shocked at what a team guy he's been from the start,'' quarterbacks coach David Lee said Tuesday.
"But you put him on the field and he's a competing machine. His eyes change and he wants to go. He wants to put it in the end zone every time he gets the ball.''
And Thursday night, the 34-year-old Vick will have the ball in his hands once more.
"Mike has done a beautiful job,'' offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said, "and he has played at a high level.''
Vick will return to the place that was his home for five years to face the team that gave him a second chance when few NFL franchises would. For Vick, the Eagles are more than just the next and last preseason opponent for the Jets. And for the Eagles, Vick always will be more than just an opposing quarterback.
"He always represented our team with a tremendous amount of class,'' Eagles chairman Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement after Vick signed with the Jets in March. "Michael was a great teammate, a great leader, and we're thankful for everything he provided to our organization and to our community.''
Rex Ryan likely will trot out Vick for the coin toss and use him for a play or two, at most, as a symbolic gesture. But third-stringer Matt Simms and rookie Tajh Boyd, a sixth-round pick, will get about "99 percent of the reps,'' Ryan said.
Few, if any, starters will play in the preseason finale. But don't underestimate the importance of this Jets-Eagles game. It's the final opportunity for guys on the bubble to prove they're worth keeping, and that includes former second-round pick Stephen Hill. The Jets reportedly tried in vain to trade the third-year receiver, so with cut day looming Saturday, Hill needs to stand out to hold on to a roster spot.
One quarterback who won't play, though, is former Jet Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez was released by the Jets the same day they announced the Vick signing, and he later signed a one-year, $2.25-million deal with the Eagles. After an erratic five years with Gang Green, Sanchez has begun resurrecting his career in Philadelphia. He completed 25 of 31 passes (80.6 percent) for 281 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a 112.5 passer rating in three preseason games.
The shoulder injury Sanchez suffered in a preseason game against the Giants landed him on injured reserve for the 2013 season. But it also paved the way for Smith to take the reins of the offense.
Smith has a year of NFL experience under his belt and is exuding far more confidence and command in the huddle. To some degree, Vick has played a role in that.
"He's been great in the classroom,'' Lee said of Vick. "He doesn't talk a lot, but when he does, I listen. We all listen. Because he's got 10 years of playing in this league, been to the Pro Bowl. He's been great for Geno. They get along really well and they trust each other. And Mike's been dead honest. I hear those comments.
"And he's done nothing but enhance Geno's chances of being a better pro quarterback.''