FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The first day of mandatory minicamp wasn't a good day for Geno Smith.
The Jets quarterback threw three interceptions, including two in the red zone, during team drills Tuesday.
First, Smith was picked off by Darrin Walls on a ball that was tipped by receiver Eric Decker. Then came a pass to Jeremy Kerley that was picked off by Dexter McDougle, who missed his entire rookie season because of a torn ACL. And finally, there was Smith's errant pass over the middle that was intercepted by rookie Durrell Eskridge.
Smith's performance wasn't pretty by any means. Nevertheless, coach Todd Bowles tried his best to be positive.
"I saw leadership," Bowles said when asked for an assessment of Smith's play during practice. "He made some good throws early on, had a couple of turnovers in the red zone, which we know we can't have. But I think all of the quarterbacks did down there. He made some good throws. He's been making some good decisions and as he grasps the offense and sees a lot of things the defense is throwing at him, I think the growth is coming along pretty good."
Smith's biggest issue is committing turnovers. In addition to being 11-18 as a starter, he has thrown 25 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. He has a .575 completion percentage and the second-lowest QBR (35.7) since 2010 among quarterbacks with a minimum of 30 games. Only former Jet Tim Tebow (33.4) is worse.
But despite his struggles over the past two seasons, Bowles said recently that the starting job is Smith's to lose in training camp.
But the Jets coach made it clear Tuesday that he doesn't have much patience for turnovers -- even in practice.
"Turnovers always matter," Bowles said. "You don't want turnovers from an offensive standpoint, you want to get as many as you can from a defensive standpoint. So I'm right down the middle right now. You can give a tip [of the hat] to the defense when they get them and you can give a tip to the offense when they don't turn them over. It's got to be a good give and take. Right now, the defense took a little bit more today."
The coach said he anticipates the offense will be on par with the Jets defense by the second week of training camp.
As for Smith's issues with turnovers, Bowles pointed out that it's not always the quarterback's fault.
"It's a little bit of everything," he said. "Those guys [on defense] make plays over there. He's going against some good players. Sometimes it's the plays the guys make, sometimes it's a tipped ball, sometimes it's a late throw after the play and you're just trying to throw the ball up because the play is over. It's practice. There's a lot of things that lead to that. The thing you don't want to do, is when you're in red-zone drills, you don't want to turn it over and give up the three points by any means necessary."