New York Jets – Will We See “December” Geno Smith?

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Many are assuming Mike Vick is going to waltz into the starting quarterback job for the New York Jets. However, if Geno Smith can replicate his play from the final month of the season and grow in the offseason the way he theoretically should, he is the frontrunner to start week 1.

The value of Smith’s final four games has been debated. There were home wins against the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns in there, which isn’t going to get a parade thrown. Regardless, the Browns had a top ten defense in the NFL last season and the other two games were on the road against a team playing for a playoff spot (Miami) and the #2 defense in the NFL (Carolina). Smith played Miami at home on December 1st, went 4/10 with 29 yards and a INT before being benched at halftime. 28 days later he faced the same Miami team, except in their building, and went 17/27 with 190 yards while adding 44 rushing yards and a touchdown.

In the final four games, Smith’s stat line was 68/116 (58%), 790 yards (197.5 per game), 4 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 186 rushing yards (46.5 per game) and 3 rushing touchdowns. For those who follow Pro Football Focus, they dropped this tidbit yesterday:

What was the primary difference between Smith in the final four weeks of the season and the previous four weeks before that? We touched on it an earlier article but having consistency and competent play at the wide receiver position was a big part of it. However, when focusing down on Smith specifically, a few things stand out:

Running Decisively

Smith seemed hesitant to embrace his ability as a runner earlier in the year. He ran for more yards in the final four games combined and the same amount of touchdowns than he did in the previous twelve games combined. When the pocket broke down, Smith wouldn’t hesitate and take a sack or force the ball into coverage leading to a turnover, he would instead take off up-field for positive yardage. He had 29 rushing attempts in the final four games, compared to 30 in the previous eight games before that. It is always difficult for a defense to face a quarterback who can make something happen with his legs when the play breaks down. With six rushing touchdowns in 2013, Smith has already proven to be a valuable red-zone weapon as a runner.

Blitz Recongntion

Smith still has a ways to go here, yet there were signs of progress in the final four games. There was a better recognition of where pressure was coming from and finding the “hot” read or tweaking the play at the line to be ready for the blitz. Smith was only sacked five times over the course of the final four games and not once in the last two games. Part of that was better use of his legs but part of it was simply getting rid of the football quicker against the blitz. This is also a major reason Smith cut back on his turnovers, as he only had 2 interceptions in the final four games, after throwing 6 interceptions in the four games before that.

Playcalling and Tempo

Marty Mornhinweg did a nice job in the final four weeks of getting Geno Smith out of the pocket on rollouts, which also cut the field in half for his reads. He also let Smith pick up the tempo of the offense, as the team mixed in more no huddle and let Smith call plays from the line of scrimmage. Smith seemed more comfortable operating at the quicker pace and having less time to over-analyze things. He was very good in the two minute drill as a rookie and the Jets shouldn’t hesitate to mix in a few drives of up-tempo, no huddle each half.

Smith should take strides this offseason, He is now familiar with the offense and returns to work with the same offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The weapons around him have already improved and we haven’t even hit the NFL Draft or training camp yet. There are no guarantees but being optimistic for Smith’s sophomore is reasonable.

  • http://twitter.com/DeeApostraphe D’Apostraphe Lewis (@DeeApostraphe)

    Great read, thanks Joe. Honestly, I think that everybody penciling Vick in as the starter is being short-sighted and, in the case of many “professional” sports writers, completely irresponsible.

    In the case of this upcoming QB competition (competition, not controversy) a tie is going to go to Geno. Factor in how promising Geno’s finish to the season was along with Vick’s propensity to get injured, and I’m leaving Geno Week 1. That being said, I won’t kick and scream if Vick wins. I think it’s in Geno and the team’s best interest to start the guy who truly wins the competition.

  • Nick Evans

    Geno didn’t get enough credit for being a rookie plain and simple. Yes he played bad at times but that’s to be expected from rookies but it’s how he was able to bounce back and adapt to the style of play he needed to to win games. Using his legs opened up a dimension of his game that will make it very difficult for other coaches to game plan against especially now that he has some offensive weapons. His last month of the season is proof the light has turned on for this kid now we just wait and see how keeps improving his game. In geno we trust.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I agree that, barring injury or a complete implosion by Geno, that he will end up the starter in game 1. I also agree that a tie in the “QB competition” goes to Geno, & I’m inclined to think that Geno will “win” the competition unless Vick blows him out.

    At this point, I think its fair to wonder how the Jets judge their training camp “competitions,” as I’m not sure anyone believes Campbell or Aboushi “won” roster spots with performances last summer. Does potential factor into the “competition?” I haven’t seen any quotes from Rex or Idzik indicating it does, however Idzik’s business-like approach leads me to believe that fans should not expect transparency or complete honesty while he is in charge (which is probably a smart move strategically).

  • Mark

    Let’s hope Geno learns how to hit the turf when he runs.

  • Frank Antonelli

    If Geno can play at that level for the entire year we should be a playoff team baring a rash of injuries. Hopefully we’ve found our quarterback.

    However, if we have to go to Vick I still think we have a chance to make the playoffs.

    Obviously, Geno winning the job and playing well is in the best interest of the Jets long term.

  • Dan in RI

    Nice analysis. You’re absolutely right–if Geno can build on his final four games from last season, I expect him to start. Most of the “experts” who have already penciled Vick in as the starter are just being lazy. They are turning a blind eye to how bad Vick has been over the last season and a half, and how good Smith was over the last quarter of the season. I think Geno will benefit immensely from the upgrades at WR and TE (in addition to Eric Decker, I am assuming the Jets pick up at least one good WR and TE in the draft).

  • David

    We will see a December Smith in September or we will see Vick playing by the bear game. I think Smith will succeed with the new weapons

  • http://Workingclay.blogspot.com Psi

    One of the laziest things I’ve seen from most writers is that they seem to judge Smith the way you judge a 4-5 year veteran. Any rookie should be judged by how they “progress” over the course of their rookie season. I’d love to see a stat on rookie QBs by quarter season in year 1 (assuming at least 8 games started.) and how they fared in years 2 & 3. Did the ones who improve throughout year 1 continue the trend or did they flat line or regress in the subsequent seasons? Did the year 1 flat liners get better or worse? Did the ones who regressed year 1 turn it around or not. Smith squarely falls into the first cohort.

  • joeydefiant

    Taking into consideration how much more complicated NFL offenses and defenses are compared to college and the skill of NFL defensive players compared to college most players are going to stuggle early in their rookie years. A lot of throws you can get away with and squeeze in against college defenses will be picked off in the NFL. The good players can make adjustments and then succeed in the NFL like we hope Geno did at the end of the year.

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  • David

    The thing I like most about the Jets this offseason is that they finally have a backup QB if Geno goes South. But the whole key is going to be whether Rex has the will to actually pull him from a game before it’s too late. There were games last year that if Rex didn’t pull Geno Smith, he never was going to.

  • Stevesc

    I believe Geno will be successful in his second year with the Jets. He has a full season of experience under his belt, and will have the benefit of what should be an upgraded running game, and after the draft, a better wr corps. The thing I like about him is he is confident without being cocky and he is a hard worker. He made a statement to the effect that he watched game film in the off season over and over and over again as painful as it was. That shows me he is a player trying to improve by learning from his mistakes. Plus, he is not getting any respect from the media who already have anointed Vick as the starter. As with CJ, this could put a chip on Geno’s shoulder to prove everyone wrong.

  • BJ Rassam

    Ultimately, best player will get the starting role at QB – but it wouldn’t hurt Smith to sit for at least part of the season and continue to learn on the sidelines.