Geno Smith takes early lead in Giants’ backup battle

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It looks as if the Giants are on their way to finding their backup quarterback. Who would have thought they would find him close to their own backyard?

In the first preseason test of the summer, Geno Smith easily outperformed Josh Johnson, turning Friday night into a good night for the former Jets starter. Smith did more with less and as a result, he was a big winner coming out of the 20-12 loss to the Steelers at MetLife Stadium.

Just when it looked as if Smith would come away with a knockout victory, though, he reverted to his old self. In a third-quarter moment Jets fans know all too well, Smith threw an ill-advised pass that easily was intercepted by linebacker Arthur Moats, who nearly turned the turnover into a touchdown.

It appeared as if Smith and rookie receiver Travis Rudolph were not on the same page on the play — Rudolph broke deep while Smith threw short — but it was a pass Smith should not have made, regardless of any miscommunication.

None of three quarterbacks used by coach Ben McAdoo was able to get the Giants in the end zone.

Johnson, in his eighth NFL season for his third team, was with the Giants last season and should be well-versed in what they are doing on offense. It did not translate to the field. Johnson got the start and displayed some of the failings he has shown this summer, mostly a tendency to hold on to the ball too long.

On the first series, Johnson stepped up in the pocket, moving directly into the clutches of T.J. Watt — J.J.’s little brother — for a sack. On the first play of the next series, what looked to be a possible wide receiver screen was ruined when no one blocked Watt, who crushed Johnson for an 8-yard loss.

Johnson finished 5-of-10 for 31 yards and took a seat with the Giants leading 6-3. He played three series with the starting offensive line and one with the backups.

“It felt good to be able to get out there and get our feet wet,’’ Johnson said. “Not scoring touchdowns wasn’t good enough. We were able to put some points up on the board. We need touchdowns, though.’’

Josh JohnsonJoseph E. Amaturo

Smith looked far more decisive, even though he is new to the Giants’ system and coming off knee surgery. On his first pass, he drilled a 15-yard completion to Darius Powe and got the ball out of his hand far more effectively than Johnson. Smith drew the shorter straw, as he worked behind the second-team offensive line of Chad Wheeler, Adam Gettis, Brett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Adam Bisnowaty.

To start the second half, Smith, on third-and-7, found second-year tight end Jerell Adams down the seam for a 20-yard gain. It might have been Smith’s best throw of the night. He followed it up with a rollout to his right and a pinpoint pass to Roger Lewis for 15 yards. Smith was 10-for-16 for 114 yards and the one interception.

The Giants trailed 10-9 at halftime and the Steelers extended their lead to 20-12 on Terrell Watson’s 15-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

On defense, the Giants went with their usual starters, other than Jason Pierre-Paul, who got the night off, and the results were predictable, facing a Steelers offense without Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. The starters forced the Steelers into back-to-back three-and-outs, with safety Landon Collins picking up where he left off in 2016, dominating in every way possible.

“Landon Collins was around the ball a bunch,’’ McAdoo said.
B.J. Goodson, promoted to the starting middle linebacker role, was kept on the field for the entire first half and played as if he intends to keep hold of the job. He was active against the run and, in the second quarter, correctly anticipated the snap count from rookie Josh Dobbs and stormed in for an eight-yard sack.

“We’re just excited to see what we’re capable of,’’ Goodson said. “We just have to keep going out there and keep doing it over and over again. That’s the process. And that’s my job to make sure those guys are in position to be there.’’



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