Geno Smith performed admirably in his pro debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, leading the New York Jets to an 18-17 victory.
He faces an entirely different animal on Thursday.
The dual-threat rookie quarterback will go against the New England Patriots in Foxborough on Thursday. The Jets haven't defeated the Patriots in Foxborough since the divisional round of the playoffs in 2011. The Patriots have won 12 straight regular-season matchups at home.
The best thing Smith can do is treat this as a learning experience.
Every young quarterback is going to endure his fair share of ups and downs. Smith will undoubtedly suffer his, and they could be plentiful against the Patriots on Thursday.
Smith played well against the Buccaneers in Week 1, but he also wasn't perfect.
He completed 63 percent of his passes for 256 yards while tossing a touchdown and running for 47 yards, but he also averaged 6.74 yards per pass attempt (currently ranked 20th among 32 qualifying quarterbacks) and threw an interception. He also made a rookie mistake with 2:33 remaining in the first half, running backwards when he felt pressure, only to take an 18-yard loss. Only 25 of his 256 passing yards came while under pressure, via Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus.
You would think the Jets would keep it simple for Smith against the Patriots, as the Buffalo Bills did with rookie E.J. Manuel in Week 1.
In the 23-21 nail-biter in Week 1, the Bills rarely asked Manuel to throw downfield, sprinkling in short passes and rollouts. He ended up completing 67 percent of his throws with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He had 27 pass attempts to 34 rushes for Buffalo.
In the win against the Buccaneers, Smith had 39 pass attempts to New York's 29 rushes. The Jets would be wise to ease back on that workload in Foxborough.
Of course, that may be easier said than done.
For one, while the Bills have C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in the backfield, the Jets currently have—wait for it—Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory. To give you an idea of how ineffective Powell and Ivory were against the Buccaneers, they combined for fewer rushing yards (44) than Smith (47)...with 16 more rushing attempts. Somewhere, Jets fans are actually missing Shonn Greene.
While the Jets would probably like to give Smith a reasonable workload against the Patriots on Thursday, it's going to be difficult to stick with the run if their leading rushers combine for two yards per carry.
Also, the Patriots obviously have a more explosive offense than the Buccaneers. In that regard, the Jets will likely have to win a shootout with New England. The Patriots have averaged 35.2 points per game in the last six matchups with the Jets since the 2011 playoff loss. Last year, they dropped 49 points on the Jets in East Rutherford.
Smith will likely be asked to throw more than the Jets would prefer him to on Thursday. That means he will see more of the Patriots' various defensive schemes. He likely won't excel in Foxborough, but at least—if he learns quickly—he will be able to pick up on some things he could do differently moving forward.
In the long term, one loss to the Patriots in Foxborough is a small price to pay for the Jets if Smith is able to learn from the experience.
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