Geno Smith set out to take the first steps toward rebuilding his reputation and his career.
On the anniversary of the infamous punch that cost him the starting job last season, the Jets’ beleaguered backup quarterback aimed to make the most of his first action since Week 8 in 2015. But in typical Smith fashion, it wasn’t always easy or pretty.
He stumbled out of the gate and got booed, but by the time Smith jogged off the field at halftime, he had done what he had set out to do. He reminded fans and, more importantly, the Jets that he’s still capable of making plays.
Smith contributed a touchdown pass inThursday night’s preseason opener against Jacksonville, a 17-yard back-shoulder throw to seventh-round pick Charone Peake that put the Jets up 14-13. It was the highlight of the evening for Smith, who went 8-for-14 for 79 yards in the Jets’ 17-13 victory.
He entered the game with 9:45 to go in the second quarter, and it wasn’t until 6:46 remained in the third that Smith exited in favor of Bryce Petty.
Smith wasn’t made available to reporters after the game, but coach Todd Bowles highlighted positives for both Smith and Petty. “I think they did some good things,” he said. “They got some pressure at times, but there were no turnovers from the quarterback position, which is always a plus. Both of them threw some good balls . . . Him and Bryce showed poise.”
Smith got his first taste of playing in front of the home crowd in more than a year, and the fans didn’t take it easy on him, even in the preseason. Smith — who had his jaw broken by then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali on Aug. 11, 2015, in the locker room — started the game 1-for-4 for 8 yards. He had an assortment of errant throws and almost was intercepted, but his TD pass and Ross Martin’s 23-yard field goal gave the Jets the 17-13 lead.
There were plenty of missed tackles by the Jets and miscommunication between quarterbacks and receivers, but there were bright spots, too. Jeremy Ross electrified the crowd early with a 51-yard kickoff return, and undrafted free agent Jalin Marshall did even better. Aided by a block from Rontez Miles, Marshall broke away for an 84-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
Lineman Leonard Williams and rookie linebacker Darron Lee contributed a sack apiece. Petty, the Jets’ third-stringer, showcased his big arm, though some throws were off-target. Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick also had a solid performance, completing 3 of 4 for 72 yards.
The Jaguars took a 10-0 lead, thanks to the bruising style of former Jet Chris Ivory. He ran six times for 26 yards, including a 1-yard score. But it didn’t take long for Fitzpatrick to get in a groove as he hit Quincy Enunwa for 26 and 43 yards. The second completion, to the Jags’ 4, set up Bilal Powell’s rushing TD to make it 10-7.
Cornerback Dee Milliner struggled in his first action on defense since Oct. 12, 2014, the day he tore his Achilles. He was beaten on back-to-back routes. First, Allen Robinson made an acrobatic catch near the sideline for 16 yards. On the next play, he again burned Milliner, hauling in a 45-yard pass from Blake Bortles. Milliner later whiffed badly on a tackle that resulted in a huge gain.
Bowles said, “We can’t have explosive plays,” and Milliner agreed. “Most definitely I was upset about them,’’ he said, “because I should have made the plays.”
Notes & quotes: DL Muhammad Wilkerson didn’t play after being limited to individual and position drills Tuesday.