NEW YORK (AP) - Michael Vick has watched Geno Smith every day for nearly two weeks.
Every snap and every throw.
Sure, Vick would like to be the New York Jets’ starting quarterback. But, from what he has seen, they’re already in pretty good hands with Smith.
“He’s going to be great,” Vick declared. “He’s going to be 10 times better than where he was last year and I’m looking forward to it.”
That’s quite an endorsement from a guy who still believes he can be a star in the NFL. As it stands, Vick is a big-name, veteran backup who can step in if needed and push Smith to be better in his second season.
Some fans and media wonder when - not if - Vick will replace Smith under center. The doubters aren’t sold on Smith being able to improve that dramatically from a rookie year in which he threw 21 interceptions and just 12 touchdowns. Smith gets a chance to show everyone where he stands Thursday when the Jets - with newcomers Eric Decker and Chris Johnson - play their preseason opener at home against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
“Execution. It’s always about execution,” Smith said. “It’s always about us doing the right things on the field. We want to execute to the best of our ability. Go out there and be sharp mentally, be sharp physically, be accurate, be sharp with the reads, and get good plays in.”
Sounds simple, huh?
Smith found out last year that the leap from college to the pros isn’t always without some stumbles. He has used the offseason and training camp to try to make the game slow down a bit.
“I felt it coming at the end of last season,” he said. “It’s still a work in progress. I’m still getting better. I’m still fine-tuning a lot of things. Still need to focus on the mental aspect of it and all the small things that will make me better.”
As far as Rex Ryan is concerned, having Vick around can only help Smith - which, in turn, will help the Jets determine if they’ve got their quarterback of the future.
“I think that if you have Mike Vick come in here, you better be on top of your game, and obviously Geno is,” Ryan said. “Whether he needed Mike Vick to be here or not, I’m not sure. But probably not because I know Geno wants it in the worst way to be a great quarterback and the preparation that he did in the offseason, the things he did.
“But certainly, with Mike Vick in there, that does push him.”
Ryan expects the starters to play into the second quarter Thursday night, with Smith opening the game and Vick perhaps getting the final series before backups come in.
Chuck Pagano was unsure how much Luck and the Colts’ starters will play. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, still recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, will not suit up but is expected to be ready for the season opener at Denver.
“You’d love to see in a perfect world, them go out there and have a six-, seven-, eight-play drive, score a touchdown, kick a PAT, and make a decision there, get them out of the game and whatnot,” Pagano said.
That won’t be in the game plan for Ryan’s defense, which expects to be among the league’s best this season.
“As luck would have it,” a grinning Ryan said, with a pause punctuating his attempt at humor, “we play a heck of a quarterback. … I think it’s going to be a good test for our defense and a good test for them, too.”
Whether it’s one series or a handful, Luck has a few goals of his own set for the preseason opener.
“Take care of the football, convert third downs and score touchdowns,” he said. “Positive, positive plays.”
That’s exactly what Ryan and Smith expect.
“I’m excited about it just like, shoot, no different than our fans,” Ryan said. “Let’s see where this team is at. Let’s see how Decker fits in, let’s see how this defense looks. So, I’m excited to watch us play against somebody else.”
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Anderson, Indiana, contributed to this report.
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