Eight days ago Devin Smith dropped a touchdown pass which immediately set the impatient Jets fan base into a frenzy as they all tried to rush to be the first fan, who was so astutely ahead of the curve, to call the rookie receiver a bust. The thing about that drop is it wasn't an easy catch by any stretch of the imagination, but for Smith it's a catch he made time and time again in college.
Smith excelled at tracking the deep ball and making tough over-the-shoulder catches look routine in college, so it was a little jarring to see him drop one in that same manner last Sunday. Still it was only one drop (he only has two on the season) and the toughest thing about a receiver adjusting to playing in the NFL is keeping the ability to get open. Smith has been getting open and as long as that continues the catches will start to pile up.
This is why everyone on the Jets, the quarterback, other receivers, defensive players and the coaching staff, continued to express confidence in Smith. Todd Bowles talked being pleased with how much faster Smith had been playing and said they were going to continue to keep giving him more opportunities. Ryan Fitzpatrick said he absolutely would not shy away from targeting the rookie and Brandon Marshall preached patience because he's seen this story before, and with a receiver Jets fans are familiar with because the Jets could have drafted him instead of Stephen Hill.
"It's tough. Alshon Jeffery in Chicago, same exact story. He was beat up a little bit the first half of the season his rookie year," Marshall said. "I was talking to him about adjusting on the deep ball and how to attack the ball and then in his second year he explodes to be the best guy, ever pretty much, to track the ball deep and make those big plays.
"So, it just happens and sometimes it happens faster for others. Devin is a guy who it just took time, but what you guys saw on Sunday (versus the Texans) is not the (finished) product. It's just some bad situations and he'll pick himself up and I just told him, 'you got to stand up to the media, you got to be a man and take accountability but move forward.' That's it."
Smith was overshadowed by Marshall's spectacular 11 catch for 131 yards and two touchdown performance yesterday, but he was able to reward the Jets for their patience and confidence as he caught two passes for 33 yards, including a 16 yard touchdown pass. Of course a two catch game is hardly setting the world on fire, but with Marshall and Eric Decker on the team the Jets don't need Smith to put up Marshall like numbers they just need him to take some of the defensive attention from the other two receiving options and make the defense pay when they don't divert their attention away from Marshall and Decker.
Smith handled the criticism perfectly, he didn't let it faze him and he accepted that it was just going to happen until he proved just how silly and presumptuous that criticism was.
"When you (work in) this profession, you have to understand that (crictism) is going to come," Smith said. "It was like that in college. Whenever something like that happens, I just take it in stride and keep moving forward. Everybody on this team is right next to me and told me to keep going and keep working."
If Marshall and Decker can both stay healthy and Fitzpatrick can play even 70 percent as well as he did yesterday the Jets will need Smith to make just a handful of plays a game. He had only two catches yesterday but the second one gave the Jets a 14 second lead with 14 seconds before halftime. For Smith this year won't be about putting up huge numbers and eye-popping fantasy stats but about making the right plays at the right times and if he can do that from here on out this Jets passing attack could become dangerous enough to slip into the playoffs.
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)