Leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, most draft analysts and NFL teams were excited by the talent West Virginia’s Geno Smith possessed and displayed throughout his college career. Smith showed the ball placement, confidence, and athleticism to step in early in his career and have success.
But, for reasons that may stem from his college scheme or his “character concerns”, Smith fell out of round one on draft day. And right into the Jets lap in the second round. After outplaying Matt Ryan for much of the Jets upset victory over the Falcons, Smith is starting to show the skill set many are excited and expecting to see blossom in the NFL.
Before going into where he succeeded in the Falcons game, Geno Smith had four turnovers in a 38-13 loss to the Titans just a eight days prior to his Monday Night showing. While his actual performance wasn’t as bad as the stat line indicated, he did seem to struggle with timing in the pocket and route communication with his receivers downfield.
In a game that optimized the talents Geno showed during his tenure at West Virginia, here’s an excerpt from our scouting report on Geno Smith prior to the 2013 NFL Draft that was on display Monday Night:
“He shows great pocket presence, with the ability to adjust to pressure while keeping his eyes downfield and reset his feet to make throws. He is poised and patient in the pocket, allowing receivers to get open. When the pocket collapses he is smooth and efficient in eluding the rush and buying time. He also can escape pressure on the run.”
While his patience in the pocket has led to 18 sacks in just five games (including four against Atlanta), he’s slowly beginning to adjust to the speed of the NFL, both against pressure and his receiver’s routes. He’s remained confidence throughout this season in standing tall in the pocket in the face of pressure, showing a willingness to take a hit to make a throw downfield.
Specifically in his win over the Falcons, Smith showed confidence in his playmakers and offense as a whole. Patient and timing well with his tight end Jeff Cumberland on seam routes and attacking underneath throws with Jeremy Kerley, Smith utilized a conservative yet versatile passing attack that his offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg designed well.
And while Smith’s efficiency, confidence under pressure, and placement in the red zone was the best indicator that his comfort-ability in the offense was starting to form, it was his two minute drill that lead to a game-winning 43 yard field goal by Nick Folk that will motivate the Jets to continue winning with Geno at the helm.
After taking over at his own 20 yard line, Smith went 4-for-4 for 44 yards and an eight yard run on a bootleg. His throws weren’t rushed, consistently tight, and placed well enough that his receivers could pick up added yards after the catch. It was a drive that was both well called (by Mornhinweg) and well executed by Smith. And it’s a drive that encapsulated the fact that Geno Smith had outplayed Matt Ryan for much of the game and earned the victory against the former NFC South champs.
Smith ended the game 16-for-20, with 199 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 21 yards rushing, playing efficient football thanks to high-low reads he was comfortable with and not forcing the ball downfield more than a handful of times. And that’s exactly what the talented yet developing passer needed most.
He needed the coaching staff to be patient with him. He needed the offense to be slowly implemented into his mind. And, as he earned himself with his final drive, he needed a signature win against a playoff caliber team to provide him the confidence to lead the Jets the rest of the season. And after a 3-2 start, he has them thinking playoffs. Not bad for a second round rookie.