Geno Smith led the Jets to a comeback win against the Bucs in his first NFL start last week. Game 2 may present a more difficult challenge.
The Jets will travel to Foxboro, MA to face their arch rival, the New England Patriots, in their home opener. Bill Belichick feasts on rookie quarterbacks, and you can guarantee he’ll do everything he can with his defense to confuse Smith. They don’t blitz often, but instead cause turnovers by mixing coverages to rattle the QB. Rookie quarterbacks have never won a game at New England with Belichick in command, going 0-4 and losing by an average of 23.5 points per ESPN Stats & Info.
The Patriots are tremendous when it comes to forcing turnovers at home. For Smith and the Jets to have any chance of winning, he’ll need to protect the football and not put the defense in a bad position.
Tom Brady is 5-0 in games played on Thursday nights during his career. However, tonight may be a case of catching Brady and Co. at the right time. His selection of targets will be limited. His #1 target tonight, Julian Edelman, was his #6 receiver at this time last year. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Zach Sudfeld, receivers Danny Amendola and rookie Aaron Dobson (from Marshall) are questionable. Both players aren’t projected to return to the field until at least next week.
Smith’s 256 yards passing on Sunday ranked 6th on the most passing yards by a rookie in their debut since 1960. He left the pocket 17 times against the Bucs, the most in the league for Week 1. His completion percentage improved outside the pocket as the field narrowed and his options were right in front of him. He typically had two options to throw to, or tuck and run. On those plays, he went 6-for-9 passing for 60 yards. He led the Jets in rushing yards with 47 last week as well.
After a shaky start, Smith showed poise and composure in leading the Jets to a comeback win. He went 7-for-11 for 83 yards in the fourth quarter.
Tonight, he will be without receiver Jeremy Kerley who had 3 receptions last week before leaving the game with a concussion. One wrinkle the Jets employed during the first half of the opener was using Kerley as their “Wildcat” quarterback on several plays. That will likely be tossed from the playbook as long as he is out.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported on Wednesday evening that Dr. James Andrews diagnosed QB Mark Sanchez with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He now has a few options: he could try to rehab the shoulder in hopes of playing at some point this season and have surgery later, or go ahead and have surgery to repair the damage. Either way, he’ll have to go under the knife.
Last week, Sanchez spent a lot of time in between series, talking to Smith, teaching him. Now that Smith looks like he’ll be the starter for the entire season, Sanchez can help Smith greatly by being a mentor on the sideline and in the film room.
With Smith now firmly in the driver’s seat for the Jets, he faces a steep uphill climb. Do the Jets have the horsepower around Smith to get the team to the top?