Injuries have already attacked the New York Jets’ receiving corps, but it leads to a big opportunity for second-year man Jeff Smith.
In the midst of every tough situation, opportunity seems to knock in an attempt to provide a silver lining. Jeff Smith is on his way to the door.
Training camp has only just begun across the NFL, but injuries have already taken their toll on the New York Jets. A receiving corps that’s already reeling from the loss of Robby Anderson has been particularly affected. Heralded second-round choice Denzel Mims has been held out of early practices due to a hamstring issue and Vyncint Smith (no relation) reportedly needs surgery to repair a damaged core muscle. Minor reinforcement is on the way in the form of two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Hogan, but he’s some times away from clearing the quarantine protocols necessitated by the ongoing health crisis.
Behind veteran newcomer Breshad Perriman and slot staple Jamison Crowder, experience is at a premium on the depth chart. Jeff Smith, for example, is among the remainders with the most experience…and he has one NFL game under his belt.
But now set to work with the top units as training camp continues, Smith knows a major opportunity awaits, one that could shape the next stage of his NFL career.
“Next man up,” Smith said simply in a report from Randy Lange of NYJets.com. “I think my main thing is just to know the whole offense and wherever my chance comes, to be able to go in there, not think too much, and be able to play fast.”
It was Smith, 23, who fell victim to the injury bug during last year’s training camp activities. A hamstring injury of his own relegated him to the practice squad for a majority of the year, but he received a promotion to the active roster in time for the Jets’ December visit to Baltimore. Smith earned his first NFL reception, good for a 12-yard gain and a New York first down, but another injury, this one being an ankle sprain, prevented him from building on the momentum.
Though it was cut short, Smith’s professional debut was the culmination of an offensive transition that began upon his sophomore season at Chestnut Hill. Smith began his career as a quarterback but made the switch to receiver, a move that eventually paid off in the form of a rookie free agent contract from the Jets.
Smith hopes his former skills as a quarterback will help him out in this new, green endeavor.
“I played quarterback my whole life, so I’ve been able to learn things quickly and kind of retain that,” he said. “I kind of see things differently learning the whole concept, just kind of knowing what to do.”
“It’s like learning the offense through a QB’s mind but being able to go run the routes and things like that.”
Additionally, Smith is known for his speed, which was on display during his Boston College adventure. He is, in fact, no stranger to high-speed antics in New York-branded facilities. During his freshman season, Smith’s tough final stand as a quarterback was somewhat soothed by a career-best 117 rushing yards in a visit to Syracuse. Two years later, he returned to the Carrier Dome and torched the Orange for a 64-yard scoring run, one that permanently shifted a 42-14 victory in the Eagles’ favor.
“Us Florida guys just have that natural speed. My dad ran track and my mom played volleyball and ran track, so I’ve just always had that kind of speed,” the St. Petersburg native said in Lange’s report. “That’s just a positive side to my game, being able to use that speed at the right time.”
Overall, Smith has described his position shift as “smooth”. The Jets certainly hope his transition from camp hopeful to first-unit man goes the exact same way as an topsy-turvy season deals yet another curveball.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags