Geno Smith and the 14% Red Zone

Al Bello

I would like to start off this Fanpost by stating that i am a Geno Smith supporter. I want him to succeed and I liked what i have seen from him so far. If there was someone who would excuse his performance on the lack of weapons, lack of protection, or just the sun being in his eyes, it would be me. But I am not doing that in this Fanpost. Based on watching the film from the game, I can say that the Jets', and in particular Geno's, red zone performance was very lackluster. Well, even if I didn't and turned on Sportscenter for 2 minutes i could have figured that out. The Jets reached the red zone 7 times. They scored 1 TD, 4 FG, and 1 INT (the last red zone attempt was turnover on downs). That is a success rate of 14%. If they had just had above the league average of red zone percentage (54.55%) and scored 4/7 times then they would have a score of 34 (I counted the last trip as a FG because they wouldn't have gone for the TD unless they really needed to. It's too complicated to figure out the rest of the outcomes because there are so many variables but they would've scored around that much). That's a lot better than 19 and we could've won the game. Hell, even if we scored 2 more TDs then we would have 27 points and the game would have been tied. Just to make people think of what could have been, if we had scored every single time we would have had 49 points. Now I'm just throwing out a bunch of random numbers.

Anyway, I'll talk about each red zone attempt and what could have or should have happened. Here are key things for which I looked:

  1. If someone was wide open and not targeted
  2. If Geno made a very poor/inaccurate throw
  3. If Geno made a poor decision in that situation
  4. If the plays that were called should not have been called

For the record, I will refer to red zone attempts as RZA. Do not get that confused with the rapper, it will make this Fanpost much more confusing.

RED ZONE 1 About 5 minutes left in the 1st Quarter

Unfortunately for the Jets, one play really killed the RZA. The first play was a run that gained 1 yard. Probably not the best call but the blocking just looked pretty bad. The second play was the killer. This was when Geno was sacked for 13 yards. Nelson in the red box was pretty wide open. At the time of this picture, throwing to Nelson could have been a risky throw because there is a safety and 2 corners right by him. However, just one second later and Nelson is now much safer to throw to. Unfortunately, the protection doesn't hold up and Geno gets sacked. You can argue that Geno should've thrown the ball at this point and I wouldn't disagree too much with that. By the end of Nelson's route he is wide open, waving his arms and about 5 yards away from the closest defender in the corner of the end zone. If the protection held up for just 2 more seconds this would be a beautiful touchdown.


Let me show you the issue with the blocking. I'm kind of confused about what exactly happened. You can see below that Breno and Colon both double teamed #93. But then you can see in the 2nd picture that Colon and Breno both leave their man at the exact same time to help double team other players. Now I'm not well versed in lineman blocking schemes but this looks like it was a miscommunication between Colon and Breno. The defender even looks confused that there's a wide open hole (as represented by the blue lines in the 2nd picture) and hesitates for a second. Geno gets away from this defender but then another one comes down and sacks him. If the first defender didn't come after him then the second defender would not have even mattered. So whether or not you think Geno should have thrown the ball earlier is a tough call but the protection did not help one bit. And the sad thing is that the line was doing alright in protection until that mental error. After that play, the Jets gave up and threw a short pass on 3rd and 22 and settled for the field goal.



RED ZONE 2 About 10 minutes left in the 2nd Quarter

This RZA started off well with an 11 yard screen pass completed by Kerley. Nice, they start on the 15 with 1st and 10. Next play, 2 yard outside run by Ivory. Not a great call and they probably would have gotten more yards by going up the middle instead. here's a play that looks like it was left in the playbook from Schotty.


No one even goes more than 5 yards on this play. Everyone is so bunched together that Cumberland gets tackled the second he touches the ball. I wish they would send just one person into the endzone but at least it wasn't 3rd and 10. I actually kind of liked the next play, however. Amaro and Cumberland were lined up on the right side of the line and did a sort of criss-cross move that threw off the linebacker. Cumberland ended up sitting there pretty wide open and everything seemed to work pretty well....until a Bears defender jumped up and swatted the ball. I couldn't tell if Geno stared down the receiver or what made the defender realize the ball was going there, but Geno did do one of those stupid jumps to throw the ball for some reason. This play was Geno's fault but i am not sure how much of this is also due to the defender making a great play. Maybe he read Geno's eyes.


RED ZONE 3 About 5 minutes left in the 2nd Quarter

Jets score a Touchdown on this play with a beautiful pass to Kerley. Technically this was the only play in the red zone so I can say nothing except that it was perfect.

RED ZONE 4 About 5 minutes left in the 3rd Quarter

Just like the previous RZA, there is technically only one play in the red zone. The previous play was an 11 yard pass to David Nelson. Good throw. Next play. Bad throw. Interception. There's not much you can really say about it. Geno wanted to force the ball into the endzone on this play even though he didn't have to. It was 1st and 10 on the 19 and the score was 24-13. A couple of players were even open. Cumberland was technically open in the middle (red square) but he wasn't moving his defender was running towards him at this point and it would've been a Charles Woodson INT all over again. Ivory was open on the left however his defender is also currently sprinting towards him. It would've been a 1-2 yard gain. However, the one player that is open and would be able to have a sizable run is Tommy Bohanon on the bottom. He can do the only thing he knows how to do, and that's be a check down. About one second after this picture no one was anywhere near T-Bo and would have easily run for 10 yards. However, that was as a result of Geno starting to run to the left. So the INT was not necessarily as a result of other players being wide open, though he should've thrown to T-Bo the second he saw that no one else was that open. It was stupid to force the ball to Nelson with a safety there to back up the play.


RED ZONE 5 About 1 minute left in the 3rd Quarter

The following RZA occurred almost immediately after the INT. We got the ball back after forcing a 3 and out. After the punt and a late hit against the Bears, we were pretty much already in the red zone so at least we did that right. The play call on this RZA just baffled me. I honestly have no idea what they were thinking running this play. When it was 3rd and 2 on the 2 yard line the Jets decide to....QB run the ball. What? You frickin' kidding me? They're expecting the run on a short distance play and you don't even give it to the guy who is known for being a mauler and a guy that breaks tackles? Terrible. Terrible. Terrible play call. I can't even give any blame to Geno on this RZA.

RED ZONE 6 About 10 minutes left in the 4th Quarter

This drive consisted of a couple of short quick passes that led the Jets up the field. Once they got near the red zone on the 25 yard line, they got stuffed for a run with Johnson. They should really use much more of Ivory than Johnson. The next play is the one that Scott wrote about in this article. Geno got pressured so early so there wasn't really any play he could make. However, I don't like the throw that he made even though it was well thrown (but just a tiny bit inaccurate). If the defender didn't make a diving tip then it would've been thrown on point for a catch so I'll give him credit for his ability to fit a tight window. But that was a very risky throw to make. Good job on the actual throw, not so good job on the decision to throw it. If that ball was caught then I guarantee I would be freaking out right now about how good of a pass that was.


RED ZONE 7 About 2 minutes left in the 4th Quarter

This was it. The final drive. There were some questionable play calls such as the first one in which no one ran past 10 yards. Powell ended up getting a screen pass for 1 yard because no one could get open. There was also another (second to last play) in which no one really ran a route that would allow them to get separation. No fades, no corner routes, nothing. Nelson ran a curl and just stood there and he was the most open player. It's tough to score when no one gets open. Other than those plays there were 2 plays in which players were open except Geno didn't throw to them.


1st and 10. The Bears are clearly playing zone here. Most people's initial reaction would be to shout 'OMG KERLEY IS OPEN GIVE IT TO HIM HE'S WIDE OPEN" but he isn't as open as he looks. The defenders will have time to react and will be able to cover him. However, he still has space and Geno (or most good QBs) could place that in the back corner of the endzone so that no one else could catch it. Worst case scenario, it would be incomplete but that would be a much better option than throwing it to someone who was double covered. The much safer option than both of those passes would be a pass to Nelson in the green box. He made a cut towards the sideline and would have been wide open for a quick pass. He may have gotten a touchdown too if he didn't fumble the ball. At worst, the Jets would have received another first down and have the ball on the 2 or 3 yard line. Passing the ball to Salas in the endzone was just foolish.

This picture below is just to give you reference of where Kerley is in relation to the play. The defender obviously already is going for the ball so it's not like I could say he's wide open because that would be misleading.


4th and Goal, last chance for the Jets. The following play has two open players that Geno could throw to. One was Kerley on the left side. The other was a little guy by the name of Jalen Saunders. Yes, the guy who dropped the punt earlier and the same guy that has 0 targets so far. I'm questioning why he is even in on this play but my assumption would be that it was because he played the slot against Isaiah Frey. Looking at the film, it was a favorable matchup because Saunders was open. However, he doesn't get open until Geno throws the ball and Kerley was open first so it made no sense to wait on such a quick play. Kerley is also the much much better receiver so it wouldn't have made sense to choose Saunders over Kerley unless he was so blatantly open. The only problem I had with this play was the throw itself which was a bit behind Kerley and forced him to jump and turn to catch it. If Geno was able to throw it over him then the PI call that never was would not have even been a question.


So in my professional amateur opinion, I will say that during these RZAs there is a good amount of blame on questionable play design. However, most of the faults are on Geno. He made mistakes, didn't see open receivers, forced the ball into unnecessarily tight windows, and had the ball deflected too many times. I don't know what to say about these really. Are they indicative of poor progression? Or does the fact that the Jets WR who was tied for most red zone TDs in the league last year was out during these attempts have a huge effect? Who knows, but I will say that i was satisfied with Geno's performance in between the 20 yard lines for the most part (sans INT). I don't think my conclusions matter all too much because I laid out all of these images and analyses of the plays. It's really up to you guys to see if you agree with what I said.

Oh yeah, and just because I had to I decided to take this picture in case anyone had any doubts about Kerley's ability to land in bounds. You would think that if someone was facing the ball when they went up and wasn't interfered with that they would still be facing the same way. Oh well, it's over and there's nothing we can do about it.


All pictures were taken as screenshots from NFL Rewind. Permission pending to use hi-tech GGN Graphics.

This is a FanPost written by a registered member of this site. The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not those of anybody affiliated with Gang Green Nation or SB Nation.