Geno Smith has struggled this year. The play of the offensive line, the play of the receivers, and the conservative play calling have all contributed to those struggles, and have been discussed in detail. What may have been a bit overlooked in Geno's struggles is just how difficult the opponents have been.
So far this year Geno has faced pass defenses ranked 3, 6, 8, 9 (twice), 10, 11, 12 (twice), 20 and 24. That's 9 out of 11 games against top 12 pass defenses. The Bills (#12) were terribly undermanned when the Jets first faced them, so make that 8 of 11. It should come as no surprise that Geno's best three games in terms of passer rating, and his only three games above 80 passer rating, came against Atlanta (24), Tampa Bay (20) and that depleted Bills defense in the first Bills game.
In the three games against below average pass defenses, Geno has 6 TDs, 3 INTs, and a 3-0 record. In the other eight games Geno has 2 TDs, 15 INTs, and a 2-6 record.
Unfortunately for Geno and the Jets the road doesn't get any easier from here. Sunday's opponent, Miami, is the NFL's 14th ranked pass defense. The Jets play them twice. They also play Oakland (25), Carolina (7) and Cleveland (5). That will mean that by year's end Geno will have faced 13 games against top 14 pass defenses, missing only #1, #2 and #13 of the league's top 14 pass defenses. Even if we discount the first Buffalo game, it still ends up being 12 games against top 14 pass defenses. This is extraordinarily bad luck on Geno's part. The schedule makers could scarcely have made things more difficult for a rookie QB. We can only hope this trial by fire will portend an accelerated growth curve and better days to come. In the meantime, we might have to face the likelihood of some pretty difficult struggles ahead for young Mr. Smith.