FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Jets wide receiver Devin Smith still is a work in progress.
The second-round draft pick from Ohio State has plenty of talent and, most of all, game-changing quickness. But he has yet to find his rhythm in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's offense because of missed time on the practice field.
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"He's struggled integrating into the whole system," Gailey said Thursday. " . . . It's been a longer process than I think any of us thought it would be. He's just got a lot to learn and a lot to work on at this point. He's got talent. We, obviously, all see that. If he just keeps working, things will happen good for him in the future. He's just got to keep working at it."
On July 31, the second day of training camp, Smith broke multiple ribs and suffered a small lung puncture when he collided with a teammate. The 23-year-old also missed mandatory minicamp because his girlfriend gave birth to his first child.
"So you really think about it, he might be close to being at the end of training camp right now," Gailey said of Smith, who made his regular-season debut on Sept. 27 against the Eagles. " . . . And you probably get half the number of reps you would get in training camp."
Unlike in college, Smith is being asked to run different types of routes and charged with varied responsibilities in Gailey's system. "So he's got a lot of work [to do in] reading coverages and reading leverage of man coverage and all those little intricate things about where to take your motion, where to stop your motion so that you get the running pick," Gailey said, adding that if Smith can "continue to work at it, he'll be fine."
Adjusting to the NFL learning curve isn't easy. But the longer it takes for Smith to get acclimated, the more Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker will have to carry the passing game. "We'd like for other guys to be a part of it," said Gailey, who added, "But the odds of them being a big part of it are not there."
As for the tiff between Marshall and Smith after Sunday's 30-23 loss in New England, Gailey wouldn't say who was at fault. But he seemed to indicate that Smith, who lined up in the slot on the same side as Marshall, shouldn't have been on the line of scrimmage. The confusion over positioning led to a false-start penalty being called on Marshall, who was still moving when the ball was snapped and spiked with one second remaining. The penalty resulted in a 10-second runoff and the game ended.
"We didn't get lined up correctly and Brandon was trying to make it right by moving back and he got a motion penalty on the play," Gailey said, adding that if two receivers are on the same side, one has to be off the line of scrimmage because "you can't cover an eligible receiver.''
"We have certain rules in place and we've got it handled now where hopefully that won't happen in the future. It shouldn't have happened then if everybody's on the same page."