Unlike Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith is not throwing picks

Geno Smith throws a pass during training camp

Geno Smith throws a pass during training camp in Cortland. (July 29, 2013) (Credit: Hans Pennink)

CORTLAND, N.Y. - When reminded that his rookie quarterback has yet to throw an interception in four practices during training camp, Rex Ryan just smiled.

Joked the Jets' coach, "It probably tells you about our coverage."

But the truth is, it speaks volumes of Geno Smith.

Although it's much too early to declare a winner in the quarterback competition between Smith and incumbent Mark Sanchez, the rookie's strong arm, tight spirals and ability to protect the football have produced positive reviews.

"Geno's been doing a heck of a job making sure that he's not throwing any interceptions," Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie said Monday. "He's making the right choices. If something's not there, he tries to get outside the pocket, either scramble or try to throw the ball away.

"So when you play against a quarterback that's like that in practice, it's hard to get interceptions."

But in complimenting Smith, Cromartie -- knowingly or not -- highlighted Sanchez's biggest flaw.

The veteran quarterback, who helped create "The Butt Fumble" phenomenon, committed an NFL-leading 52 turnovers the past two years. And to the dismay of the small crowd of Jets fans gathered at SUNY Cortland Monday, the trend continued.

Fans booed loudly after linebacker Josh Mauga intercepted one of Sanchez's passes toward the end of team drills. Sanchez also was picked off by second-year safety Antonio Allen during a 7-on-7 drill on Saturday.

But Smith is not a finished product either. Ryan was quick to point out that he still has plenty to learn -- such as getting rid of the football more quickly.

"He took a couple of sacks today," Ryan said. "I think that's somewhere he can improve his game. I've been impressed that he has not thrown a pick."

Linebacker Calvin Pace kept Smith on his toes at the beginning of practice, batting down two of his early pass attempts in team drills. Nevertheless, players seem to be pleased with what they're seeing from the rookie.

"I'm surprised by how well he's picking up the offense," Cromartie said. "Him coming from a shotgun-formation offense and him [now] being under center and being able to get from under the center and be able to do the things that he does, it shows that he's a different kid.

"He's a kid that can come out and compete. And that's what he's trying to do."

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