GREENBELT, Md. — Looks as if there is a quarterback competition after all.
On a night when the Jets’ first-team offense looked flat and Geno Smith looked even worse, third-stringer Bryce Petty did more than just prove he deserves to stick around.
He made a case for earning a fair shot at the backup role.
“Anybody can push anybody for any job,” a terse Todd Bowles said of Petty’s ability to challenge Smith for the No. 2 job.
The comments by Bowles, who spoke after the Jets’ 22-18 loss to the Redskins on Friday night, came just six days after he told reporters there wasn’t any change in his quarterback depth chart after the preseason opener against Jacksonville: “You’re not making competition after one preseason game.”
But after Petty’s two-touchdown performance against Washington, Bowles clarified his stance: “I said Geno was No. 2 and Bryce was No. 3. I didn’t say there wasn’t a competition. Right now, Geno is two and Bryce is three.”
The question is: Are the Jets better with Smith or Petty as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s backup?
Smith’s performance was woefully familiar, featuring the same decision-making fans grew weary of during his tenure as a starter in 2013-14. His latest miscue was an interception by safety Will Blackmon with 2:26 left in the first half. On the next play, Washington scored a 39-yard touchdown.
Bowles made it clear that “every position is open,” and when asked if Petty had earned a spot with his performance, he curtly replied: “Nobody is on the roster right now.”
Smith — a second-round pick in 2013 who has 42 turnovers in 31 games with the Jets — acknowledged that his performance against Washington was “not up to my standards.” As for his hold on that No. 2 spot, he didn’t say much.
“I think Coach has answered that question,” he said. “But we always compete. We all compete in that room. We’re all competitive players and quarterbacks. So competition is what you make it.”
It wasn’t until Petty entered the game to start the third quarter that the Jets showed any signs of life offensively.
His 19-yard touchdown pass to third-string tight end Zach Sudfeld — fired in between two defenders — got the Jets within 14-9. In the fourth quarter, he connected with Robby Anderson on a 50-yard completion to help set up a field goal before teaming with Anderson on a 42-yard touchdown to put the Jets up 18-14.
After the game, Petty reiterated that his objective is to be more than just an NFL backup.
“If you’re gunning to be the backup, I think you’re wrong,” he said. “I think we’re all gunning to be the starter. I know it’s different here [with Fitzpatrick], you know? But in my mind, I want to push Ryan because [I’m] one snap away from playing. Same as Geno. Same as Hack [Christian Hackenberg]. Every day that we walk in there, we try to get better, we push each other as a unit. Because if we’re getting better, that means the team’s getting better and the offense is getting better.”
Bowles offered no other insight into the team’s long-term view of Petty and Smith, nor did he expound on the positives and negatives he saw from his two backups.
“I’ll look at the film and assess him,” he said of Petty’s play. “He made some mistakes, he made some good throws, but the film will tell.”
Asked if Petty showed more decisiveness, Bowles said: “At times he did, at times he didn’t.”
Petty’s progression, both on the field and in the classroom, hasn’t been the easiest or the quickest. But the former Baylor star is aiming to make roster cuts a chore for the front office. NFL teams have until 4 p.m. Aug. 30 to cut the roster to 75.
“That’s what I’m trying to do, regardless of whether I am or not,” said Petty, a fourth-round pick. “That’s the point I wake up to every day: Try to make it as hard of a decision as possible.
“It goes back to the team. If I’m trying to be the best and Geno’s trying to be the best and Hack’s trying to be the best and Fitz is trying to be the best, then we’re going to be a good unit and that offense is going good.”
Pierce released. Running back Bernard Pierce (hamstring) was released from injured reserve yesterday. The Jets signed the former Ravens draft pick July 27 after Zac Stacy was waived.