Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has had a roller coaster rookie season for the New York Jets, alternating wins and losses in each of the first six games and having wild fluctuations in the quality of his play. The Jets have their rematch with the rival New England Patriots on Sunday, and the pressure is on Smith to have a much better performance than he did in Week 2.
Smith completed just 42.9% of his passes and threw three fourth quarter interceptions in that Week 2 loss, a game where the Jets’ defense gave Smith ample opportunity to squeeze out a win. Smith has improved since then, and he has shown that he can be a quality starting quarterback. However, this game will be a test of how far he has actually come.
The Patriots were able to rattle Smith with pressure in their first meeting, and Bill Belichick is surely devising some schemes to torment the rookie yet again. The Patriots have lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo to season ending injuries since that game, and Aqib Talib (who intercepted Smith twice) is questionable for Sunday’s game.
However, the Patriots still have a solid defense, and Chandler Jones leads a pass rush that has given the Jets trouble in the past. Smith said this week that he understood the importance of playing mistake free football, particularly against the Patriots, but it remains to be seen if he can actually do that.
Smith was expected to go through a major learning curve this season, and he has actually progressed more rapidly than many people expected. This game is a huge opportunity for him to take the next step and become a consistently effective quarterback against top flight opposition. The Jets have the defense and running game to beat the Patriots, but they need to have quarterback play that matches that.
Smith still needs to prove that he can win big games for the Jets, and this is the biggest of his young career. Turnover free football and smart decision making are essential, and Sunday will test everything he has learned to this point. Smith has a chance to turn a corner in this game, and he needs to take advantage of it.