EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Geno Smith knows exactly what Derek Carr is dealing with.
First NFL game. First NFL start. First regular-season snap, and all eyes on you.
It’s an enviable position to be in, and one that could set the tone for a season — and maybe even a career.
Smith is making his second straight Week 1 start for the New York Jets, set to square off at MetLife Stadium on Sunday against Carr, the Oakland Raiders’ second-round draft pick out of Fresno State.
“Every guy is going to have a different feeling about it, and a different learning curve,” Smith said. “Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran or whatever, you’re going to have to go out there and do your job. Execution is the name of the game and we have to execute.”
Smith, a second-rounder last year out of West Virginia, was thrust into the spotlight a year ago when Mark Sanchez went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. He threw a TD pass and an interception, and helped lead the winning drive in the Jets’ season-opening 18-17 win over Tampa Bay. He went on to have a roller-coaster rookie season, capped by a solid four-game stretch the Jets are hoping he builds on.
New York gave Smith every opportunity to seize the job, even after bringing in Michael Vick in the offseason. He had a solid summer and the Jets are excited about his future.
“He’s night and day different,” coach Rex Ryan said. “Each guy comes from a different system or whatever, but there was no three-step drop, five-step drop, seven-step drop where he came from. It was very different for him, but this young man has shown a ton of poise.”
Meanwhile, the Raiders tabbed Carr to start the opener over Matt Schaub. A terrific summer sealed it for Carr, who completed 66.7 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, one interception and a 108.2 passer rating.
“I’m just going to continue to be myself,” Carr said. “I’m not going to change. I’m going to be the same person throughout this whole thing. The responsibilities, the stresses and all those things? Those things don’t matter to me. This isn’t stressful. It’s a game.”
Here are some other things to look for as the Raiders and Jets kick off the season:
Rex vs. rookies
Deer in headlights. That’s how most rookie QBs have looked against Ryan’s Jets teams.
When facing a rookie quarterback for the first time, New York is 7-1 since Ryan’s first year as coach in 2009. Seattle’s Russell Wilson is the only one to beat the Jets in that situation.
New York is 7-3 overall in games rookies have started in that span, with Buffalo’s EJ Manuel (last year, second start vs. Jets) and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill (left with injury in second game vs. Jets in 2012) the only others to win. Carr will look to add himself to that list of victors Sunday.
`The Raiders and Jets have several new faces in key places.
For Oakland, there’s running back Maurice Jones-Drew, wide receiver James Jones, defensive linemen Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley and Antonio Smith, and defensive backs Carlos Rogers and Tarrell Brown.
Wide receiver Eric Decker, running back Chris Johnson, right tackle Breno Giacomini and rookies Jace Amaro (tight end) and Calvin Pryor (safety) are all set to make their Jets debuts.
Men up front
Oakland’s offensive line is revamped, with only center Stefen Wisniewski playing at the spot he was at in 2013. Khalif Barnes is the right tackle after playing left tackle and guard last year. Former Jets right tackle Austin Howard is at right guard. Newcomer Donald Penn is at left tackle, while rookie Gabe Jackson is at left guard.
They’ll be going up against a Jets defensive line that’s widely recognized as one of the best in the NFL, led by second-team All-Pro Muhammad Wilkerson and AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson.
The East has been more wicked than the West for the Raiders.
They have lost 13 straight games in the Eastern time zone, looking to end that skid this weekend against the Jets. Oakland’s last win in that situation came on Dec. 6, 2009, when it beat Pittsburgh 27-24.