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The Jets Geno Smith And The Challenge Ahead

Geno has thrived against poor pass defenses and foundered against good ones. The rest of the way features a load of good ones.

Scott Cunningham

So far this year Geno Smith has played very well against pass defenses ranked in the bottom half of the league and poorly against pass defenses ranked in the top half of the league.  Shocker, right?  Who would've thought a QB would do better against bad pass defenses and worse against good ones?  The trouble here is not that very predictable scenario.  The trouble is the enormous variance in the performances.

Against pass defenses ranked in the bottom half of the NFL, Geno has put up passer ratings of 90 and 148.   He has turned the ball over twice in those two games for an average of once per game.  He has 5 TDs, averaged an enormous 10+ yards per throw, and put up 27 and 30 points in 2 victories.  Those are really impressive numbers.  But then there's the Geno against top half of the NFL pass defenses.

Against good pass defenses under Geno the Jets are 1-2.  Geno has passer ratings of 81, 28 and 79 in those three games.  He has turned the ball over 9 times, or 3 times per game.  He has 2 TDs, averaged a decent 7.1 yards per throw, and put up 18, 13 and 10 points in the three games.  Those are numbers that will earn you very few wins in the NFL.

The bad news is, the schedule is about to get a lot tougher in terms of pass defenses (all references to pass defense rankings herein are ranked by yards allowed per game).  The Jets next six games are against the NFL's # 5, 14, 11, 12, 18 and 16 pass defenses.  Note that only one of those games, against the Bills in Week 11, will be against a bottom half of the league pass defense.  In fact, of the remaining 11 games on the schedule, only 4 ( MIA twice, BUF and OAK) are against bottom half pass defenses.  And it may be that MIA will be a top half pass defense by season's end, as their current position of 25 is likely distorted by having faced  Andrew LuckDrew Brees, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco in 4 of their first 5 games.   5 of the Jets' remaining 11 games are against top 12 pass defenses.

If the Jets are to have any reasonable chance at the playoffs this year Geno Smith will probably need to greatly improve his performances against the better pass defenses of the league immediately.   The 4 games against bottom half pass defenses are eminently winnable, but the 7 games against top half pass defenses look like trouble unless Geno rises to the challenge.  If we give the Jets a 3-1 record against the bad pass defenses (maybe a split with the Dolphins?), that leaves the Jets with 6 wins.  That would mean the Jets will likely have to go at least 3-4, and more likely 4-3, against good pass defenses to secure a playoff spot.  Geno playing like he has so far against such defenses is unlikely to accomplish that record.  So it may well be that if the Jets are to be legitimate playoff contenders in 2013, Geno Smith will have to raise his game substantially against some of the better pass defenses in the NFL.  For better or for worse, the season likely rests on Geno's rapid development.  It will be interesting to see if he proves up to that considerable challenge.