After the whirlwind of press coverage he had endured by the media, Geno Smith finally got his chance to face press coverage in a Sunday afternoon game. Drafted with the 9th pick in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, Geno set out to prove his doubters wrong. The results however, have been scattered. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Geno is physically gifted (6’3” 221) but the main concern is his mental toughness. With the big (albeit lucky) win Sunday over the New England Patriots and a tough challenge against a strong Cincinnati Bengals defense this Sunday, lets take a look at how Geno has been through his first seven games.
After Mark Sanchez went down in game three of the preseason against the New York Giants, it was all but certain that Geno Smith would be the starting Quarterback on opening day against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Widespread panic broke out due to Geno’s abominable performance in the aforementioned game against the Giants (199 yds, 1 td, 3 int, 1 fumble). However, Geno went out and gave a promising performance against the Bucs, going 24-38 for 256 yards and a touchdown. In addition to this, he led the jets on a game winning drive as kicker Nick Folk kicked the game winner as time expired. This performance instilled some hop in an otherwise mortified fan base. The praise unfortunately was short lived. On a short week, the Jets went to Foxborough to play the Patriots, where Geno threw three interceptions (all in the fourth quarter) as the jets lost an obtainable game, 13-10. This trend has continued and this is the issue at hand. Geno has been incredibly inconsistent going on a pattern of one good game, one bad game. The jets have traded wins and losses and now hold a record of 4-3 through seven games.
Geno’s individual play has held the same model. Throughout seven games, Geno has gone 130-223 for 1,723 yards with 8 touchdowns and 11 picks. There’s been good and there been bad so let’s break it down.
At his best, Geno has looked like the best Quarterback in the AFC east this year (and yes that includes Timmy Brady). In the Jets four wins, Geno has thrown for 1,019 yards, 7 touchdowns, four interceptions, and only one fumble lost. Physically, Geno has been smooth, hitting his targets in stride and on deep routes. His arm has been looking fantastic, hooking up with Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill against the Bills in week 3 for huge plays (both of which resulted in touchdowns). He’s been confident in the pocket, not phased by pressure of opposing defenses, resulting in smart, more calculated plays. He has also been very impressive when scrambling. With a 40-yard dash time of only 4.78, he has an impressive 5.2 yards per carry. Even more impressive than his on field play, is his off field demeanor. A big question regarding Smith during the pre draft interviews was his maturity. There were reports that he was on his phone texting and checking twitter while coaches were attempting to speak to him. None of this has seemed to be an issue in the pros. He has held himself with class and has had a win first attitude, while still maintaining his confidence and bravado. THIS Geno Smith has the makings of a franchise quarterback.
The problem is we’ve only seen THIS Geno Smith in four games this season. In the Jets three losses this season, Geno has thrown for 704 yards with only one touchdown, while throwing 7 interceptions. In these games he has looked flustered in the pocket, making ill-advised throws into coverage, and having a general lack of field I.Q. These problems can be summed up by the pick six he threw to Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan. Geno attempted to throw the ball to a draped David Nelson when Ryan simply turned around a picked the ball off, taking it back for six. This isn’t the first time that Geno threw the ball right to a defender. The week before, versus the Steelers, while facing pressure, Geno lobbed the ball into the air, hoping newly acquired tight end Zach Sudfeld would catch it. The issue was that Sudfeld wasn’t even heading on the streak route by the time the ball was thrown. This resulted into a ball being placed into triple coverage and easily being intercepted by Steelers Safety Ryan Clark. Recently, Geno has developed a nasty habit of staring down his receivers when they are running routes. This is a cardinal sin among quarterbacks. Staring down your receiver gives the defense an obvious heads up as to whom the ball is going to. These are massive problems for the rookie out of West Virginia. He has garnered some comparisons to the great Joe Namath (naturally) when he is on point with his play. Unfortunately, he has also drawn comparisons to his predecessor Mark Sanchez with his wild throws and nervousness in the pocket.
To be fair to Geno, he doesn’t have much to work with on offense. His number one receiver last week was Jeremy Kerley. Kerley is a nice slot player, but he does not have the talent to be a number one receiver on any team. However, this is not an excuse for the rookie quarterback. No matter what pieces you are given, you have to play consistently well every Sunday if you expect to succeed in this league. Geno has shown the ability, he just needs to show it more than one week at a time.