In the NFL, quarterbacks are often the driving force behind the team’s overall success or failure. The best teams in the league generally have the best quarterbacks, while the worst teams are searching for answers at the most important position on the field.
The New York Jets and Geno Smith fit this mold, and the team’s chances of winning are directly tied to Smith’s success. Smith and the Jets have been a roller coaster this season, alternating wins and losses in each of the team’s first eight games. Not surprisingly, Smith has played his best football in the four wins, completing 60.8% of his passes for 1,019 yards, 7 TDs and 4 INTs. In the four losses, Smith is only completing 57.9% of his passes for 863 yards, 1 TD and 9 INTs.
That dramatic difference is a huge concern for the Jets, because it demonstrates a lack of the consistency that is needed to become a playoff team. Smith is a rookie is playing like a normal rookie, but he has shown on several occasions that he can be a very good quarterback. However, he has followed each of those occasions with complete meltdown, most recently against the Cincinnati Bengals, when he threw two pick-sixes.
The Jets have a solid team around Smith, and in the weak AFC they are very much alive in the Wild Card race. At 4-4 at the halfway point, the Jets are exceeding nearly everyone’s preseason expectations. However, they are not satisfied with merely being better than expected. The Jets want to make a run at the playoffs, but they need more consistency from Smith in order to do that.
The Jets need to start by getting Smith easy and quick completions early in the game. He holds onto the ball far too long, and that leads to sacks and interceptions. The Jets need to start him with some simple, confidence building passes that get Smith and his receivers into a rhythm. The Jets got off to a very slow start against the Bengals, and they were never given the chance to recover.
The return of Santonio Holmes after the bye week should help quite a bit, as will the continued improvement of Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland. David Nelson has been a great addition for the Jets, and his role in the offense should continue to grow. The Jets don’t have an elite group of receivers, but they have enough talent to support Smith and have an effective passing game.
The Jets go as Smith does, so it is essential that they get more consistent play out of their young quarterback. Smith has the natural talent, but he is still learning. It falls on the coaching staff to put him in the best position to succeed, and if they can do that then the Jets should be able stabilize their roller coaster season and have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.