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90-Man Roster Preview: No Guarantees For QB Geno Smith

Will ex-Jet earn a roster spot?

NFL: New York Giants-Minicamp
Geno Smith
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Why did the New York Giants make the seemingly odd decision to sign Geno Smith, a flop on the field in four seasons with the New York Jets and a player who showed questionable maturity off of it?

The Giants appear to like the 26-year-old’s talent, and are curious if what should be a better environment with the Giants — a Super Bowl-winning veteran quarterback and a quality core of veterans in the locker room — will help Smith flourish.

“I feel like this gave me the best opportunity to grow as a player and I am happy about the decision that I made,” Smith said about signing with the Giants. “Being in a system that I was previously in, one that I thought was really good for me and my skill set. Also being with Coach [Ben] McAdoo and all of the coaches – I really got a good vibe from the guys and being with a winning organization. All of the things that I put on the top of my list, I felt that here was the place for it.”

Let’s take a closer look at the 6-foot-3, 221-pound Smith as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.

2016 Season In Review

Once thoughts of as the future of the Jets’ franchise, Smith was merely an afterthought with Gang Green last season. He didn’t play until Week 6, replacing struggling starter Ryan Fitzpatrick in a 28-3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He started the following week against the Baltimore Ravens, but suffered a season-ending knee injury that required surgery. For the season, he completed just 8-of-14 passes.

2017 Season Outlook

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Smith. And, in truth, it’s understandable. Smith is a massive question mark entering training camp.

First, why is he here? The Giants already had Josh Johnson as a veteran backup. They drafted Davis Webb in the third round to, hopefully, be heir apparent to Manning. Now, they have money committed to both Johnson and Smith, albeit not a lot, and only one of them will be on the 53-man roster.

Second, is he healthy? Smith didn’t do much in the spring as he rehabs from knee surgery. He has said he is healthy enough to fully participate, but the Giants didn’t let him do that during OTAs or even mandatory mini-camp.

“I feel like I can do everything, it is just getting the trainers to give me that access,” Smith said during OTAs.

Coach Ben McAdoo said that Smith is “chomping at the bit, he wants to get out there, but we have to do right by the player.”

Quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti Jr. said in the spring that the Giants were pleased with Smith’s work, even if little of it was coming on the field.

“He's done a great job acclimating himself to the New York Giants. He's done a great job rehabbing, he's done a great job learning the fundamentals. He's done a great job communicating in the classroom and on the field,” Cignetti said. “Every day we're teaching and learning and Geno has done a great job.”

Finally, Smith has to prove that he can actually play. After failing a starter with the Jets in 2013 and 2014, Smith played in only three games the past two seasons. He has a career completion percentage of 57.4, a passer rating of just 72.4 and has thrown only 28 touchdown passes while being intercepted 36 times.

Yet, Smith remains confident in his ability.

“Honestly, I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone other than myself. I am just trying to be my best every single day, focusing on trying to be perfect,” Smith said. “I know that is a far goal to try and reach, but just trying to be perfect every day and understanding what is required of me once I step onto the field and then trying to get it done.”

Smith tried not to be bothered when the Giants selected Davis Webb in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

“You don’t react. I have been in situations where quarterbacks have been drafted and it happens in this league, so you just have to continue to work,” Smith said. “We always say that the cream always rises to the top, right? So guys who aren’t afraid of competition and like to work – they usually perform when their best is needed, so I like to think that I am one of those guys.”

In truth, Webb is not Smith’s competition. At least not this year. That would be the 31-year-old Johnson, who hasn’t taken a meaningful regular-season snap since 2011.

One of them is almost certain to be the primary backup for Manning. One of them is almost certain to be a former Giant. Which one is which is, for now, anybody’s guess.