Chris Johnson predicted this.
The Jets running back wasn't at all surprised by Geno Smith's performance Friday night vs. the Giants or the announcement that Smith will start Week 1 against the Raiders.
Johnson can sense a different vibe when his quarterback walks in the room. And the improvement in Smith is clearly visible, even to the running back who's in his first year with the Jets.
"Like I've been saying all year, he's coming out with a different swagger like he's taking control of this offense," said Johnson, who signed a free-agent deal with the Jets in April. "You can tell that he's grown so much from last year. He's just in there doing the right things.
"Yeah, I can tell he is a lot different from how he walks into the huddle. He came in as a rookie and was thrown into the fire. This playbook is very, very hard. So, it's hard to come in as a rookie quarterback and learn this offense, and be successful. But just by his hard work, being here in the offseason, spending those extra hours learning this playbook, you can tell he's more comfortable this year."
Their 35-24 defeat in Friday night's "Snoopy Bowl" frustrated Rex Ryan and his players. But the bright spot was their balanced offensive attack and Smith, who looked in control and unfazed by anything the Giants threw at him. The second-year quarterback completed 9 of 14 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, but most impressive, he didn't have a single interception.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson succinctly described the biggest difference between Smith in Year One and now. "He's not turning the ball over," Richardson said.
Smith was a rookie quarterback who often looked unsure of himself on the playing field -- and his three picks against the Giants in last year's "Snoopy Bowl" was more than Rex Ryan could take. In a desperate attempt to eke out a win against their in-stadium rivals, Ryan yanked Smith in favor of Mark Sanchez, who shortly thereafter, injured his throwing-arm shoulder and was lost for the season.
Much has changed since then for Smith and the Jets. And while their offense still hopes to make strides, coaches and players alike are pleased with Smith's growth.
Ryan was complimentary of his quarterback's decision-making Friday night, though the Jets coach added: "I'm not surprised with it. That's how he's been playing. He had one pick this preseason [against the Bengals]. That was more of a timing issue. I was really happy with him. I think he's taken off from where he left off. I expect great things in the future from him."
Ryan announced during his postgame news conference that Smith would start the regular-season opener against Oakland. "He's done everything that we've asked him," the coach said. "This is no slight to Mike Vick because, believe me, I wanted to come out of this with two really good quarterbacks that we think we can win games with, and in my heart, I feel that we have two that we can win with. I'm really happy with the way Mike played as well, but we're going to go with Geno. I feel very comfortable with that."
The news came as no surprise to the media and especially not Smith, who said he assumed he'd be out there with the starters in Week 1. "I always come in with the mindset that if I do what I have to do, I can be the starting quarterback and lead this team," he said.