While Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract drama continues to pick up steam off the field, business on the field picked up this week for the New York Jets.
The Jets are back on the practice field this week for organized team activities, also known as, OTAs. This portion of the NFL offseason is mostly used to develop players and help prepare them for what’s coming their way when training camp opens. The Jets, however, currently find themselves having to prepare without their starting quarterback last season, Fitzpatrick.
Geno Smith has been holding down the starting quarterback position during OTAs and is expected to continue in that role for the near future, or at least until Fitzpatrick can come to terms on a new contract.
While Fitzpatrick and the Jets continue to play their game of ‘Who blinks first?’, Smith is hoping to make the most of his opportunity to lead the first offense.
Smith, according to various reports, has shown improvement and maturity. The return of wide receivers Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall to the field should only help Smith even more with his progression. The one-two punch, in the Jets passing attack, skipped last week’s OTAs. The OTAs are voluntary, however, the rumors, of Marshall and Decker sitting out in a show of solidarity for Fitzpatrick, made the rounds throughout Jets nation.
“Just nice to nice to get them back in general,” said Jets head coach Todd Bowles on the importance of getting Decker and Marshall back to work with Smith. “Again, I knew they were gone last week and I knew they’d be gone last week. But just to have them back and get everybody on the same page is important too.”
While it would look pretty obvious to connect the dots on if Marshall and Decker were staging a mini-protest, in support of their starting quarterback last season, by sitting out a few voluntary practices, Bowles made sure to sidestep any talk of that.
“No.” said Bowles when asked if he thinks Decker and Marshall missed last week to make a stand for Fitzpatrick.”Because I talked to them and I knew they were going to miss last week … the reasons they told me, they had valid reasons. So they were fine.”
Bowles might be a no-nonsense head coach, however, he’s also played in the NFL. If anyone knows the business side of the game, from the player’s perspective, it’s Bowles. If he does think his players sat out to stand up for Fitzpatrick, it’s completely logical to conclude he’d prefer to keep that bit of information in-house.
When asked if he can envision Fitzpatrick leading this team, Bowles’ answer pretty much sums up where the Jets currently are with their quarterback situation.
“I don’t envision anything but coaching the guys that are here,” said Bowles. “And if he’s here, I can envision it. If he’s not, I got to envision the next man up.”
The Fitzpatrick drama, eventually, will sort itself out, one way or another. Bowles and the Jets, most likely, are hoping a deal can be reached sooner than later. In the meantime, they must continue to get Geno Smith ready, just in case.
Bowles, now in his second year as head coach, so far, likes what he sees from Smith.
“Just from being in the system a year. Having learned the system and having a year under his belt, you see more growth that way,” said Bowles. “Obviously it is still early in the stages, but right now you seen the growth that way. From maturity of commanding the huddle and understanding where to go with the ball quicker.”
Smith has to know this could be his last ride with the Jets, if he’s going to show he’s more than potential. The Jets went out, earlier this offseason, and used their second round draft pick on quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The arrival of Hackenberg was not to bring him in for three to four years of clipboard duty, the Jets envision him as their quarterback of the future.
For Smith, the former quarterback of the future, this could be a make or break camp for him. The longer Fitzpatrick’s contract talks go on, the better the chances of seeing just how much growth Smith has shown.