With veteran Michael Vick breathing down his neck and a tumultuous rookie season creating additional pressure, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith continues to show steady improvement during arguably the most important preseason of his NFL career. His steady improvement has landed himself the starting gig for the Jets heading into Week 1.
The second-year signal-caller was a solid 9-of-14 for 137 yards and a touchdown Friday night against the crosstown rival Giants, posting a 120.2 passer rating in one half of work. Smith may or may not play in the Jets' preseason finale next Thursday, but if indeed he's done, he can walk away from the preseason confident in the progress he's been able to make.
|Geno Smith, 2014 preseason|
|Yards per attempt||7.4|
We're talking about a dude who posted the lowest qualifying passer rating in the NFL last season (66.5) and a pathetic touchdown-to-interception ratio of 12-21. Only two AFC quarterbacks were sacked more, and only one had more turnovers.
But the second-round pick did have his moments last season, which is why head coach Rex Ryan stuck with him for 16 games. Only two quarterbacks—Super Bowl foes Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning—were more accurate than he was on deep passes, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
|Most accurate deep passers, 2013|
|1. Russell Wilson||48.3|
|2. Peyton Manning||48.2|
|3. Geno Smith||46.7|
|4. Mike Glennon||46.7|
|Pro Football Focus|
And he backed that up in the most important preseason game on the Jets' schedule Friday night at MetLife Stadium, spreading the wealth to eight different receivers while making constant progress against a defense that ranked eighth in the NFL last season.
He was in a complete rhythm, something we saw from him more often than not during the first two weeks of the preseason. But the best part is that it wasn't all about first reads. He was going through his progressions and finding the right options in a calm, cool and collected fashion.
This should have been a touchdown pass, too:
And this was a perfect throw for tight end Zach Sudfeld, despite also falling incomplete:
Point being, his performance was probably better than the numbers would indicate.
And that bodes well for the Jets offense, which struggled for much of the 2013 season—it ranked 29th in scoring and 25th in yardage, thanks mainly to problems under center—and is looking for a savior in 2014.
The best part for the Jets is that Smith never flirted with problems. He just looked like a veteran and didn't come close to making the kind of classic mistakes that have plagued the Jets for much of the last half-decade.
That kind of discipline gave the Jets' backs a chance to do their thing, with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory picking up 92 yards on 15 carries. When the quarterback is in the zone, everyone else's job becomes much easier.
It's only August, and Smith still has a lot to prove. But based on what he's shown us thus far this month, the Jets might actually have some light at the end of a long tunnel.