CORTLAND – Geno Smith was bound to have a bad practice.
And today just happened to be the day.
During a session in which the focus was on red-zone efficiency, the Jets rookie quarterback threw two interceptions during 7-on-7 drills. The first came on a deflection (off the intended receiver) and was scooped up by second-year cornerback Antonio Allen. The second, however, was entirely on Smith. He threw a pass intended for Hayden Smith, but never saw linebacker Nick Bellore by the goal-line.
To no surprise, Smith was unfazed by his mistakes Monday.
Instead of throwing those two passes, he should have checked it down or just thrown the ball away.
“Down in the red zone, I need to do a better job of protecting the ball,” said Smith, who added he has "tons of room for improvement." “I know it’s 7-on-7 and you kind of want to force the emphasis of trying to get the ball in the end zone, but still be mindful that we’re still working game reps and that drill is made for us to kind of pretend we’re in the game and we’re down in the red zone and we’re passing the ball – you’ve always got to be mindful of turning it over. And that’s something that I did today. And that can be fixed. And I’ll improve on that.”
To this point, Smith had developed a reputation for protecting the football – and to his credit, he still has yet to throw a team-drill interception through training camp.
Rex Ryan tried to keep things in perspective, saying: “it’s not like he’s going to be like Nolan Ryan and pitch a shutout out there. But as long as we learn from it, then it can almost be a positive. But if you don’t lean from it, obviously, it’s a huge negative.
“And, realistically, especially in the red zone. We talked about it forever,” the coach added, highlighting Mark Sanchez’s biggest issue over the past two seasons. The fifth-year QB leads the NFL with 52 turnovers in 2011-12.
“…When a defense gets a turnover in the red zone, it’s unbelievable what that does to the mentality of your unit and your football team. Here’s a team knocking on the door, they’re going to put points on the board and you turn it over. It’s huge. And likewise on offense, you’re right there, knocking at the door and you don’t come away with any points based on a turnover. And I’ve seen too many of them. It does kill you. And I think it’s bigger than, ‘Hey, it’s an interception, it’s a fumble in the red zone’ – no, no. It’s bigger than that. And that’s what we have to understand.”
Smith didn't consider his performance a setback in his QB competition with veteran Sanchez -- whom Ryan later raved about in his press conference. The rookie also doesnt see time as his enemy with just two weeks left in training camp.
"You've got to look at it in a positive manner," Smith said of his INTs. "I don't look at it as a setback. I view it as a learning experience. ...The two interceptions that I had down there in the red zone were forced balls. It's just a mindset -- if I'm a little cautious with the ball, then we don't have those turnovers and we at least walk away with three points. So that's something I'm pretty sure I'll be drilled hard on when we get into the film room."