Geno Smith picked a great time on Sunday to play sound football for the New York Jets, and with the help of a perfectly timed late hit, it was just enough to propel the Jets to a narrow victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With one win in his pocket, is it possible that Geno Smith will lead the Jets to a respectable record in 2013?
Well, the short and simple answer to my own question is, yes, he can. Geno Smith’s play in preseason action was best characterized by a number of terrible decisisons, resulting in turnovers that killed any hope the Jets had of putting scoring drives together. That changed on Sunday.
Although the Jets have no hope of a perfect transition from the Mark Sanchez era to the Geno Smith era, they’ve pulled off the change relatively well, partially because the decision to play Smith over Sanchez was essentially made for them when Mark Sanchez went down in preseason action with a shoulder injury.
With the starting position in hand, Geno Smith can be a glorified game manager for the New York Jets. Mark Sanchez became notorious in New York for giving away games to the Jets’ opposition. Geno Smith shouldn’t have to win every game for the Jets, especially considering the team sports a solid defense. He shouldn’t be playing to not lose either, but he should be conservative and limit risky play as much as possible.
Smith’s athleticism should allow him to be a better manager than Sanchez ever was. Smith has the ability to turn blanket coverage into a first-down run. While Sanchez was never exactly a statue in the backfield, he was never a true scrambler either. As a rookie, the ability to outrun defenders should aid Smith in buying time in the pocket, or if he needs it, running down field for a cheap first down.
In a weak division, and if you don’t believe the AFC East is weak, look at the Bills, Patriots game, the Jets have a chance to push for a power shift. The Jets will win games defensively in a way reminiscent of Rex Ryan’s first two seasons as the team’s head coach. If the Jets are to make a push for the playoffs, however, Geno Smith will need to continue to limit pointless mistakes, especially ones that lead to turnovers.
So, can the Jets turn their ship around with Geno Smith at quarterback? Yes, but there’s still a lot of work to do, and one good game doesn’t ensure the rest of the Jets’ season will end so well.