The New York Jets finally looked like a legitimate NFL team yesterday, defeating the Oakland Raiders 37-27. The game ended the Jets’ three game losing streak, and it finally snapped the offense out of their horrendous slump. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith was the main culprit for that slump, as he had been terrible during the previous five games.
However, Smith finally displayed some solid passing yesterday, completing 16/25 passes for 219 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Smith also made much better use of his running ability than he had in recent weeks, rushing 5 times for 50 yards and a touchdown. There have been many calls for Matt Simms to take over the starting quarterback job recently, but this performance by Smith should quiet that down.
Smith was hugely helped by the return of Jeremy Kerley, who was his primary target early in the game. Kerley had 4 receptions for 41 yards and touchdown on 7 targets, and the Jets made sure that Smith got some easy completions to his slot receiver to get things started. As the game progressed, Smith turned more to Santonio Holmes (3 catches, 55 yards) and Kellen Winslow (3 catches, 61 yards), making some key plays down the stretch.
This performance was not particularly impressive, and it in no way re-establishes Smith as the potential quarterback of the future. However, this was a key step in the right direction for Smith, as he finally looked like a competent NFL quarterback. His flaws were still on display, as his lack of accuracy led to him missing several wide open receivers. The interception was yet another bad decision, as Smith threw a ball that everyone in the stadium knew should never have been thrown, with linebacker Kevin Burnett baiting Smith into the throw.
Despite the flaws, Smith played well enough to get the win and keep the Jets’ slim playoff hopes alive. The Jets travel to face the Carolina Panthers this week, which will be an extremely difficult matchup for Smith. Smith still has a long way to go if he wants to be seen as the quarterback of the future, and he needs to continue to play smart, mistake free football in the final three games.
The Jets do not have any margin for error, and they can’t afford Smith to regress. Smith has 13 NFL starts under his belt, and it is time for him to stop making bad decisions and inaccurate throws. He doesn’t need to be a star for the Jets, but he certainly can’t be the weak link. Smith took a big step forward this week, and he needs to continue making progress.