Every week Joe Caporoso will break down different aspects of the New York Jets passing game. Today we focus on Geno Smith’s NFL debut, Stephen Hill’s route running, Marty Mornhinweg’s blitz-beaters and plenty more.
Today’s film breakdown is primarily going to focus on Geno Smith’s performance by pinpointing a few of his positive plays and a few of his negative plays. Overall, Smith had an encouraging debut, completing over 60% of his passes, rushing for nearly 50 yards and demonstrating a general calm and confidence to his game. He is still locking on to his primary receiver too often and is prone to turnovers but it was a performance he can build off of and one that Jets fans should feel good about.
On the Jets first offensive play, Marty Mornhinweg drew up a well-designed big hitter to Jeremy Kerley which went for 26 yards. Kerley lined up tight to the formation in the slot, sold a seal block and then released for a waggle route (basically running on a 45 degree angle across the formation). Kerley angles directly behind the middle linebacker. Smith, who is given a perfect pocket to throw from, shows good anticipation by releasing the ball as soon as it becomes apparent Kerley is going to beat the linebacker into the zone behind him. This was a cleverly designed play, a perfect placed throw and a well-executed route.
Later in the game, the Jets booted Geno Smith out to the right. He has plenty of space to work with so instead of dumping the ball in the flat for a short gain, he waits an extra second and fires a missile to Clyde Gates (just inside the 50 yard line) for a 17 yard gain. Smith shows good patience and an elite level of arm strength on this pass. It is also a good job by Gates staying with the play and working himself open behind the linebacker.
One of Smith’s most impressive plays on the day was his execution of the screen pass below to Bilal Powell, which went for 14 yards. Smith is under immense pressure, speeding the release of his pass. Despite the linebacker in his face, he is able to loft an accurate and catchable ball to a wide open Powell. Smith has a natural feel for the screen game, as we saw during his time at West Virginia. Anybody who minimizes the value of being able to execute a well-blocked screen under pressure hasn’t been watching Mark Sanchez the past four seasons.
A critical play in the game was a 18 yard completion to Kellen Winslow Jr which set up the Jets only touchdown. Out of the huddle this was designed to be a shot to the end-zone to Ryan Spadola who is lined up in the slot. Geno Smith fakes a handoff and locks on to Spadola, his primary target (a problem for him throughout the day).
Spadola is covered by the linebacker and safety, Smith begins to roll right and has an open receiver in the flat, he pumps the football to him and keeps moving to the right because of how much space he has (thanks to Willie Colon among others).
Smith then smartly takes the time to set his feet and delivers a perfectly placed throw to Winslow between two defenders. First down Jets.
It wasn’t all positives for Smith on Sunday. He had a killer fumble that set up a Tampa Bay touchdown. The protection isn’t optimal here but Smith needs to know where he is on the field, how long he has been in the pocket, and where he is within the pocket. He cannot hold the football with one hand and cock his arm back like that in this situation. Smith should keep moving out to the left with both hands on the football.
Smith’s interception was solely his fault. With pressure in his face, Smith badly overthrew an open check-down to Chris Ivory which was easily picked off. There is going to be rookie mistakes like this moving forward from Smith.
Moving beyond Smith, a 21 yard completion to Tommy Bohanon on a 3rd and 7 was a nice example of the play-calling and design talents of Marty Mornhinweg. The Jets use a unique formation here, moving up the running backs (where they began the play lined up) into H-Back spots, tight to the formation in the slot. This alignment allows Bohanon to chip block to help with protection and then leak to the flat more quickly than he’d be able to if he was in a traditional fullback spot.
Bohanon does a very good job of waiting until Tampa’s middle linebacker picks up a head of steam, vacating the flat completely, before releasing from his block. He is wide open and easily picks up the first down and plenty more. This is a well-designed blitz-beater from Mornhinweg, something the Jets lacked last season, and it was executed perfectly by a pair of rookies in Smith and Bohanon.
Finally, a few words on the New York Jets receivers: Stephen Hill played tough and physical, while being a strong presence in the short passing game. However, his route running still needs refinement. In the image below, he is working to create separation on a curl route and is too easily engaged with the cornerback. Hill had 6 receptions for 39 yards, an alarmingly low yards per catch for a wide receiver. He still isn’t using his speed to his advantage when running routes, even in the shorter passing game.
Santonio Holmes is clearly not 100% yet. He struggled to gain separation throughout the day on his routes. It is going to take him time to get back into regular form. Jeremy Kerley was his usual effective self in the slot but unfortunately will not play this week due to a concussion. Look for more Ryan Spadola this week, who only saw limited action against Tampa Bay.