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New York Jets Friday Spotlight: Geno Smith

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Is this Geno's last chance to impress?

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the Friday Spotlight.  Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week.  Today's player in the spotlight is Geno Smith.

Smith, a 6' 3", 220 pound, 23 year old quarterback, was drafted by the Jets with the 39th overall pick in the second round of the 2013 draft.  Smith took over the starting job in New York immediately, starting all 16 games for the Jets in 2013.  He struggled mightily at times and finished the season as the lowest rated starting quarterback in the NFL as measured by passer rating.  Smith went through one of the worst three game stretches in NFL history in the middle of the 2013 season before rebounding in the last four games and looking much improved in terms of ball security and decision making.  Smith finished the 2013 season with 12 TD passes, 6 TD runs, 21 INTs, 8 fumbles, 25 turnovers and a passer rating of 66.5.

Here are Geno Smith's NFL passing statistics:

Year

Comp. %

Yards

TDs

INTs

Fumbles

Passer Rating

.

2013

55.8

3046

12

21

8

66.5

2014

60.3

922

4

5

4

75.1

Geno Smith seemed to turn a corner at the tail end of the 2013 season, and by most accounts looked much more in command of the offense in preseason.  However, once the real games started in 2014, many of the same problems  reared their ugly heads, foremost of which is ball security.  Smith had 25 turnovers in 2013; to date he is on pace for 28 turnovers in 2014.  He has shown incremental improvement in completion percentage, TD %, INT % and passer rating, but given that he has had better weapons and a stronger running attack  to work with than last year, it is an open question as to whether the small improvements are a result of Smith's play improving or the weapons around him improving.  One worrisome matter is the all but disappearing deep game.  Smith's one shining asset in 2013 was he was very good at deep passing.  That asset has vanished in 2014, as the Jets have reined in the number of deep throws even as Geno's accuracy on them has declined.  Another striking thing that has disappeared in Smith's game in 2014 is success in the two minute offense. In 2013 Geno Smith recorded two 4th quarter comeback wins and 5 game winning drives.  In 2014 the numbers are zero and zero.  Last year if the Jets had the ball within a score at the end of the game you had a pretty good feeling Geno might pull the game out.  Not so in 2014.  This year Geno has never even really threatened a game winning drive, much less actually achieved one.  This is not the play making quarterback we knew a year ago.

As a result of Smith's continuing struggles with turnovers, as well as his inability to perform in the red zone and his inability to execute in the two minute offense, many Jets fans have grown restless, tired of yet another year at or near the bottom of the NFL standings in turnovers.  Many are calling for a change at quarterback, and that puts Geno Smith squarely in this week's spotlight.  No player on the Jets is more in need of a big game on Sunday than Geno Smith.  No player is more under the microscope.  Unfortunately for Geno and the Jets, this week's game is seemingly set up for failure.  The Jets go on the road, where Geno has struggled, to the West Coast, where the Jets have struggled.  They face a quarterback who is playing as well as any quarterback in football right now.  They face a team that almost never turns the ball over, while doing a decent job of turning over the opposition.  Unless the Jets defense does the unlikely and forces several turnovers from an essentially turnover free team, all eyes will be squarely on Geno Smith as he will need to execute flawlessly to stay in the game.  Another game with multiple turnovers will almost surely result in another loss by the Jets and a 1-4 record going into next week's game against the mighty Broncos.  It will also very likely bring Geno home to face a hostile crowd calling for his removal, if he hasn't already been replaced by then.

Those are the stakes for Geno and the Jets.  Execute almost flawlessly or perhaps have the season all but ended for both the team and the quarterback.

This is a crucial game for the Jets in a very tough stretch, an away game 3000 miles from home they almost must win.  A loss and their playoff hopes are all but over.   This is the time for Geno Smith to begin a much needed turnaround. This is the time Geno Smith must produce his first turnover free game of 2014.  This is the time for Geno to rediscover how to pull off a last minute game winning drive.  If Smith can execute nearly flawlessly, keep the Jets in the game and make a few plays in crunch time the Jets should have a fighting chance to win this game. If on the other hand Geno continues to treat the football like a hot potato, if he continues to drift ever lower in the league's quarterback rankings, if he fails to find any late game magic, Phillip Rivers and a very good Charger team will likely make life miserable for the Jets.   This may be Geno's last chance to show he deserves to be the Jets' starting quarterback  This is Geno's time in the spotlight.  Let's hope Geno shines come Sunday afternoon.