EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.- Geno Smith dropped back to pass and locked eyes with receiver Brandon Marshall. He saw cornerback Antonio Cromartie shaded just inside, and nothing but green grass on the top left corner of the route.
In front of 10,000 screaming football-starved Jets fans at MetLife Stadium, if Smith could hit Marshall with the deep flag route, pandemonium would set in.
Smith hit his back foot and released the ball. All Marshall had to do was break.
But Marshall didn’t break; he cut hard to the sideline and the ball sailed helplessly over his head.
And the crowd didn’t erupt with cheers; they instead bombarded New York’s third-year quarterback with stadium-shaking boos.
“I wish you had a camera zoomed in on my face,” Smith said after the practice, laughing. “I had a huge smile. You would have thought we were on the road.”
Throughout the early portions of the Jets Green-and-White practice, Geno and the rest of New York’s offense were treated about the same as they were for 16 weeks a season ago. Expecting to see fireworks light up the clear night sky, fans instead witnessed underthrows, overthrows and near interceptions. That didn’t make them very happy.
So, when Smith misfired on a slant to Eric Decker… the crowd booed.
When Smith was nearly intercepted by Antonio Cromartie… the crowd booed.
When Smith was stripped of the ball by Calvin Pace… the crowd booed.
When Smith lined up in the shotgun… the crowd, seriously, booed.
“Yeah, I, uh, heard about the New York crowd,” Marshall said after the practice. “It’s a great crowd, but it can also be tough. We just gotta do our job to keep them happy.”
Midway through Saturday’s workout, Smith began to turn some of the overwhelming-loud boos to cheers.
The quarterback connected with Marshall on a 35-yard touchdown up the left sideline. A few plays later, he hit Decker on a deep in. In the red zone, he again found Marshall for a touchdown after the receiver beat Darrelle Revis on a slant.
By the end of practice, Smith was hearing his named chanted as he ran back to the locker room.
“I’ve been through a lot in my two years,” Smith said. “You know, my rookie year (the boos) may have fazed me, I might have hung my head or it might have affected me negatively. But at this point, it just rolls right off my back.
"We had a decent practice today. I thought we moved the ball pretty well, but obviously we still have things to work on. That’s a part of practice. We’re going to continue to get better and that process is going to go on the entire season.”
Smith said he knows the boo-birds that like to flock to MetLife each Sunday aren’t exactly migrating away anytime soon. And honestly, that’s OK with him. But, he does have just one request:
“Hopefully the fans are a little more patient during the season.”