Is Geno Smith the Favorite to Win the New York Jets Starting QB Job?
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
There's nothing wrong with a little confidence for Jets quarterback Geno Smith. The Jets, as a whole, can tell you all you need to know about confidence in general—both the highs and lows that come with it.
Smith hasn't played a single down in the NFL. He hasn't even taken a snap in training camp yet. Even though he's only been with the team since April, he can already feel that trademark Jets confidence with regard to his chances to win the starting job at quarterback.
"I feel like I have a great shot," he said, according to the The Charleston Gazette. "I did a pretty good job overall of just adapting to the [Jets'] system and playbook and felt very comfortable with it by the end of OTAs and mandatory camp."
It's true that Geno has a great shot at winning the starting job, but his chances are no better than they are for incumbent starter Mark Sanchez. The battle is wide open.
It's all about which quarterback is the best fit in the West Coast system of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Sanchez has experience in a different style of West Coast offense, which he ran at USC under Pete Carroll. Geno Smith, however, played in a different rhythm-style passing offense designed around Smith's mobility and the deadly vertical speed of West Virginia's wide receivers.
In that sense, Geno is already at a slight disadvantage.
If Smith feels himself coming along naturally in the new offense, there's no reason he can't win the job as a rookie.
The players, however, feel differently. Center Nick Mangold told the New York Post he believes the locker room is supportive of Sanchez to win the job.
"I believe so," Mangold said. "I haven’t walked around with a pen and paper and taken a poll, but from the feeling I get, the locker room wants to win. Whoever gives us the best chance to do that, we want out there—and at this point, Mark gives us that best chance."
The Jets watched Sanchez crumble last year, but last year's team was perhaps the worst roster of the Rex Ryan era. Sanchez has always been at his best when surrounded by talent, and while that may be an indictment of him as a quarterback to an extent, it also helps explain his struggles last year.
The question is: How much better is the offense from last year? The unit gets a bit better with a healthy Santonio Holmes at wide receiver, and if Jeremy Kerley continues to improve, they have at least two formidable pass-catchers.
Better running back play from Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson should help as well. Shonn Greene's production took a huge hit, as defenses exposed his inability to hit holes with confidence and his tendency to drag his feet at times. Ivory and Goodson are both regarded as hard, fast runners with versatility to their game. Specifically, Ivory is regarded as a more explosive version of Greene for his ability to run decisively between the tackles.
Losing tight end Dustin Keller is a blow to the passing game regardless of his limitations as a "true" tight end. Jeff Cumberland was not a great replacement, and at present, he's the team's top tight end.
The team can be better than last year, but only if the quarterback play is better.
Who should be considered the current front-runner for the job?
Right now, Sanchez should be considered the front-runner, but it's far from his job to lose. The memory of the past two years doesn't simply go away because of a new offensive coordinator. Ball security has been his worst enemy, and if he can clean that up, he can be serviceable.
What about Geno Smith's ball security? It wasn't a big issue in college, throwing 20 total interceptions in three years as a full-time starter, and just six in 2012. He lost a total of 13 fumbles from 2010-2012, but that number went from six to four to three, trending in the right direction.
Geno could have helped his chances to win the job significantly by joining the team at Jets West camp, Mark Sanchez's passing camp out in out in Mission Viejo, Calif. While he didn't miss anything significant, like installation of the offense, it would have helped to get more practice with his teammates to build some rapport—and after Mangold's comments, it sounds like a little camaraderie couldn't hurt, either.
The competition is up in the air, and Smith showed the potential at West Virginia to be the quarterback the Jets desperately need after two years of epic fails at the position. Now, he needs to learn the ins and outs of the NFL game and the West Coast offense, and build rapport with and earn respect from his teammates. After all that, there'll be little doubt about Geno's chances of success as the Jets' starting quarterback, but he has a long way to go.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all stats obtained from the Sports-Reference.com network and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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