The New York Jets have brought in quarterback Graham Harrell ahead of Thursday night’s preseason finale. Harrell was a victim of the Green Bay Packers‘ first round of roster cuts. The Jets made this move because Greg McElroy is still dealing with an ankle issue that will cause him to miss the game.
However, this move is about more than just ensuring the team have enough quarterbacks for the game with Philadelphia Eagles. If you read between the lines, you can decipher a few interesting pieces of information about the Jets’ quarterback situation.
First of all, Harrell actually has a chance to make the team. With McElroy injured, he and Matt Simms will handle the bulk of the work against the Eagles. Simms was solid against the New York Giants, and with another strong performance he could be the team’s third string quarterback. However, if Harrell impresses, he will have an outside shot at being the third QB. McElroy’s chances of making the roster have dropped dramatically since his injury.
More importantly, the signing of Harrell tells us quite a bit about Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez. It is very unlikely that Smith will play at all on Thursday, and if he does it won’t be for more than a series or two. That means that his awful performance against the Giants will be the last meaningful reps he receives this preseason. Smith’s confidence cannot be very high after that display, and it is likely his teammates don’t have a lot of faith in him at the moment.
However, the fact that the Jets are not willing to risk Smith Thursday tells us that Sanchez’s shoulder injury may be more severe than originally thought. Sanchez is listed as day-to-day, but if the team knew he would be ready for Week 1 then Smith would play Thursday. However, the signing of Harrell is a strong indicator that Smith will not play and by extension an indication that Sanchez very well may not be ready for the season opener.
If Smith is forced to start at the beginning of the season, the Jets will be in a tough spot. The best case scenario, of course, is that Smith would play well and be the starting quarterback for the entire season. Based on his work so far, however, that is unlikely. Much more plausible is that Smith struggles out of the gate, is benched upon Sanchez’s return, and has his confidence destroyed.
Smith is not ready, but it appears he may be forced to start. This is an unfortunate scenario for the Jets and one that could damage their long term plans.