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NEW YORK (AP) — Rex Ryan and the New York Jets have plenty of questions they need answered.
The status of their starting quarterback is not one of them. At least as far as the coach is concerned.
"I think everybody's behind Geno," Ryan said Tuesday. "He's our quarterback and our football team believes in him, so that's it."
The vote of confidence comes as the Jets are off to a 1-2 start following a 27-19 loss on Monday night to the Chicago Bears.
Smith had a rough game, with one of his two interceptions — on his first throw of the game — returned for a touchdown.
The second-year quarterback had a few other throws nearly picked off, and some of the suspect decision-making that marked his rookie season showed up again at times. That all had some fans calling for the Jets to consider replacing Smith with backup Michael Vick.
"We're happy that we have Mike Vick on this team," Ryan said. "But, we believe in Geno. We understand that it wasn't great and he made some mistakes, but we've just got to get better and we've got to learn from these and then move on."
The Jets signed Vick in the offseason to give them insurance in case Smith stumbled this season after he went through an up-and-down rookie year. They gave Smith the majority of snaps with the first-team offense throughout the offseason and training camp, hoping he would continue to progress.
While three games might be premature to make a quarterback switch, the calls for Vick could start increasing — especially if Smith struggles again Sunday at home against Detroit.
In three games, Smith has three touchdown passes, four interceptions and five turnovers overall. And that comes after the Jets stressed with Smith all offseason about the importance of protecting the football.
"Here's why I believe so much that Geno will improve: I've seen him improve," the coach said. "I've seen him make huge improvements, from where he was last year and from how he progressed through the season, where he's at. But I'll say this: I think he's going to continue to improve. I truly believe that."
Smith isn't the sole source of the Jets' troubles early on. They scored one touchdown in six trips into the red zone against the Bears, and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had some questionable play calls at times.
Despite Chris Ivory having success running the ball throughout — he had 44 yards on 10 carries — he was used sparingly late in the game. Chris Johnson ran 10 times for 34 yards and hasn't looked like the explosive runner he was for so many years in Tennessee.
"Maybe Chris Ivory will get more time because he's certainly running hard, he's doing a great job out of the backfield and there's not a whole lot of guys that want to tackle him," Ryan said. "I mean, he's done a great job. I think with Chris Johnson, it's a matter of time before we get him going."
The wide receiver spot is a bit uncertain because of the status of Eric Decker, who left the game with tightness in his right hamstring. He played only 12 snaps against the Bears after being questionable with the hamstring already ailing.
Ryan said Decker thought he was healthy enough to play, so they took a chance on him being able to perform. He caught one pass for 19 yards before pulling himself out of the game. Ryan said he's hopeful Decker will be able to play against the Lions.
Top cornerback Dee Milliner sat out for the second time in three games, sidelined by a quadriceps injury after he dealt with a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss most of training camp.
His absence has caused the Jets to shuffle their secondary, converting safety Antonio Allen to cornerback and starting career backup Darrin Walls.
After dealing with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, the Jets' secondary faces another big test in the Lions' Calvin Johnson. Ryan is uncertain whether Milliner will play.
One bit of good news was the status of defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who left with an injured right knee that Ryan said isn't serious.
"It looks like a contusion," Ryan said. "We'll see how he is. Possibly, he might miss (Wednesday), but I think he's going to be fine."
While some doubts grow outside the facility, Ryan remains steadfast in his assertion that the Jets will turn things around.
"Nobody's going to feel sorry for us, and we don't expect them to, and we certainly don't feel sorry for ourselves," he said. "But we're excited about the opportunity in front of us. And I believe this team, this is a close team. And we're going to keep working our tails off and find a way to get it done."
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