A common knock on Smith coming out of college was his quick-to-check-down mentality, according to CBS Sports’ Rob Rang. He continued to live up to that repertoire with his 6-of-7 performance during the Jets’ preseason opener against the Detroit Lions.
Nawrocki’s most applicable notes about Smith’s aggressiveness pertain to his ability to read coverages, work through progressions and deliver the football down the field:
Average field vision and coverage recognition — forces throws and does not work through progressions… Not a student of the game… Interviewed poorly at the Combine and did not show an understanding of concepts on the white board.
Without a strong knowledge of defenses it’s impossible for a young quarterback to excel in the NFL, especially as a rookie. While it was just his first appearance on the big stage, Smith didn’t disprove any of those concerns.
His day was cut short by an ankle injury he sustained after attempting to scramble away from pressure in the third quarter. That attempt to flee was criticized by Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel following the game:
Luckily, MRI results were negative and revealed a minor sprain, according to ESPN New York's Rich Cimini. If it had been more serious, Smith's chances at the team's top job would have surely evaporated.
On the other side of the competition, Sanchez rebounded from a disastrous early pick-six interception by rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah. He finished completing 10-of-13 passes and one touchdown. But that one interception, which was an ugly botched screen pass by the quarterback, has kept the window open for Smith to continue to compete.
Did the rookie do anything to state his case, though?
While he didn’t make any mistakes, Smith didn’t take any chances either. It will take a much more aggressive approach by the quarterback in order to keep pace with his competitor.
His talent is there. He has the arm strength, the elusive ability to avoid pressure and make plays with his feet and an efficient release that all make him a potentially viable starter in the NFL.
In order to realize his potential, though, he’s going to have to truly immerse himself in the film room and in the playbook. Translating that knowledge onto the field will be a process as the NFL game occurs very fast.
That process isn’t likely going to play out quickly.
If Sanchez continues to perform adequately and Smith keeps checking down, Jets fans can expect to see another season—at least to start—with the former at the helm of their team’s offense.
That seems like the best route for Rex Ryan’s team as Smith continues to develop, at least at this point in time.