Geno Smith is on track to break team records other than passing. Unfortunately, they're of the wrong variety—turnovers.
If Smith keeps throwing interceptions at his current pace, he'll break the team single-season record of 30 held by Richard Todd and Al Dorrow.
That's not all.
Mark Sanchez and Ken O'Brien share the single-season team record for fumbles with 14. With three fumbles in four games, Smith does not project to break that record.
But if he combines a projected 32 interceptions with a projected 12 fumbles, he'll have 44 turnovers in one year. That's eight turnovers fewer than the 52 turnovers that Mark Sanchez amassed over his last two years as Jets' starter.
Imagine the criticism both Smith and the Jets would endure if that projection holds true. But I'm sure public outcry isn't what motivates Rex Ryan to strive for ball security. He's doing it because increased ball security helps the Jets win football games.
I'm not and never have been a football coach. However, I think there's a logical series of steps the Jets can take to help Smith:
Start with ball security while running. Smith's first fumble against Tennessee came after he had already picked up a Jets' first down. It looked like he was either trying to reach the sidelines to turn upfield or trying to get out of bounds. Regardless, he should have slid to down himself once he'd gained the needed yards. Secondly, Smith must learn to hold the ball close to his body while running. Running backs' coach Anthony Lynn devised a ball security seminar in 2012 to help backs like Shonn Greene with that issue. Hopefully Smith will reap the benefits of that seminar as well.
Learn when to throw the ball away. Both of Smith's interceptions against Tennessee resulted from throwing the ball into tight coverage. Another incompletion occurred when Smith tried to throw while running. He didn't set his feet and the ball sailed. While Smith prides himself on his accuracy, he must learn that not every incompletion is bad. It's far preferable to control the opponent's field position with a good punt than to give the opponent a short field with an interception.
This slide sounds like I'm picking on Geno Smith. I'm not. But, only one other Jets' player, wide receiver Stephen Hill, is guilty of losing the football.
Turnovers have their consequences no matter who commits them. However, they're even harder to bear when you replace a turnover-prone player with someone even worse. However, Geno Smith's NFL career is only four games old. He could grow a lot between now and Week 17.
But there's one disease that's far more pervasive among the Jets than turnovers. It's penalties.
Turnovers kill drives and score points for the opponent. Penalties don't score points. But they kill drives and keep opponents' drives alive. The Jets have been doing far too much of both.
According to profootballfocus.com (paid subscription required) the Jets have incurred 28 offensive penalties, 18 defensive penalties and four special teams penalties. Seven of those penalties were not enforced, which means the Jets incurred a net total of 43 penalties, over ten per game.
Guard has been the most penalized position, which may cost one starter his job. Willie Colon has drawn five yellow flags. Vladimir Ducasse has drawn six. Ducasse has also yielded two sacks, four quarterback hits and 10 quarterback pressures compared to Colon's zero sacks, two quarterback hits and five quarterback pressures. That's probably why Ducasse may cede his job to rookie Brian Winters.
Kyle Wilson is the most penalized defender. But his five yellow flags occurred in one game—the Buffalo game.
Rex Ryan tried to embarrass players into committing fewer penalties with his group pushup approach. The penalized player got to watch everyone else do pushups, Ryan's metaphor for how penalties affect the team.
That only worked if you consider halving penalties from 20 to 10 acceptable.
I wish I had a sure-fire solution. I don't. But I believe that the Jets have a few key areas where they must focus their anti-penalty efforts:
- Offensive line (17 penalties called)
- Defensive back (nine penalties)
- Defensive line (five penalties)
- Tight end/wide receiver (four penalties each)
Those groups represent 39 of the 50 penalties called. That's where Ryan and his coaches should focus.
Follow Philip Schawillie on Twitter: @digitaltechguid