Going into Saturday night’s game against the New York Giants, Rex Ryan was intent on figuring out who his starting quarterback would be for week one of the regular season. Instead, he was left with more questions than answers, and a rookie quarterback who proved he just isn’t ready to be the starter for the Jets in 2013.
To be fair, Geno Smith hasn’t seen a ton of live action. He saw limited snaps under center against Detroit in week one of the preseason, and was coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him against the Jaguars, so he has yet to acclimate himself to the speed at the pro level. Still, Smith did very little to elevate himself to the starting role.
Marty Mornhinweg ran a simplistic offense that was tailored for a rookie quarterback. Which makes sense. The playbook was comprised of quick slants, shallow crosses, running back screens, and short circle routes. Mornhinweg implemented this strategy because he wanted to exploit the weakest part of the Giants’ defense — the line-backing core — but he also wanted to devise an offensive scheme that would slowly build Smith’s confidence.
Early in the first quarter, Smith had control of the offense as he hit a myriad of short, to intermediate routes. He scored on the Jets’ second possession with the aid of four consecutive Giant penalties. The drive culminated in a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ben Obomanu, but Smith’s inexperience started to show as the game progressed.
Smith has the arm strength to perform all the throws NFL quarterbacks are expected to make, but with most rookies, struggles with accuracy and reading defenses. On the Jets’ fourth offensive possession, Smith threw behind wide receiver Ryan Spadola on a seam route, resulting in an interception by Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara. Now, this misthrow wasn’t that alarming, because every quarterback makes bad throws. But if Smith wants to win the starting job, he has to put the ball in a place where only his receiver can make a play on it.
Smith’s second interception of the night came on a pass intended for tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. On the play, the Giants were showing blitz as linebacker Keith Rivers crowded the line. At the snap, Rivers dropped back into coverage giving Smith a favorable matchup – a tight end on a linebacker. Smith’s read was correct, however, he never accounted for safety Stevie Brown who was playing center field and was at a perfect depth to intercept an overthrow by Smith. This mistake was two-fold: Smith never realized the Giants had safety help over the top, and he threw the ball too high. But this wasn’t even his worst interception of the game.
In the second quarter, the Giants were in their base 4-3 (four down defensive linemen, and three linebackers). Once again, Smith recognized a mismatch. Tight end Jeff Cumberland ran a quick slant route and was covered by a linebacker, but the Giants — looking to cut off the underneath routes that had been eating them up all game — dropped defensive end Justin Tuck into the flat, resulting in yet another interception for Smith. This one worries me the most. First off — How did he miss him? — Justin Tuck is a very, very large man. And secondly, Smith needs to be aware that defensive coordinators will eventually figure out your tendencies and try to take away what you’ve been successful at throughout the game. Part of the blame should fall on the shoulders of Mornhinweg. But Smith has to be able to diagnose, and react to what defensive fronts are showing him in his pre-snap reads. Otherwise, he’ll never be able to catch defenses off-guard.
Smith committed the most egregious mistake a quarterback can make in last night’s game. It’s ok if you throw an interception. It’s expected that you’ll struggle diagnosing coverage’s. It is, however, unacceptable to be backed up on your own goal line, take the snap, be completely unaware of your surroundings, and proceed to run out of the back of the end zone and take a safety. It is the cardinal sin. And you, Mr. Smith, need to go to confession.
Week three of the preseason is typically the game in which position battles are won and the starting quarterback job is solidified. However, for the Jets, the biggest question mark still remains a mystery, and time is running out.