It was inevitable that Geno Smith would eventually get another chance either due to injury or ineffectiveness from Ryan Fitzpatrick. On Sunday against Oakland, it was injury that provided Smith his chance to play. It was tough to get a good feel for how well he played because the quarterback position was almost irrelevant for the Jets. The defense was so bad that the game was not competitive.
When rewatching the game, one thing did stick out about Geno's play. When I think about his first two years, he was very ineffective for a number of reasons. One of them was his inability to throw with any anticipation. Passing windows are not open for very long in the NFL. Sometimes a quarterback needs to throw the ball before they are even open. He has to be able to read the coverage, know when his receiver's route will mesh with an opening, and throw the ball to that spot, even if nothing looks open at the time of the pass. Geno seldom did that. He frequently threw the ball only when a window appeared to be there, and by the time the ball arrived, it was gone. Stats showed that Geno held the ball longer than any quarterback not named Russell Wilson, and he did not show any of Wilson's ability to create big gains by extending plays.
On Sunday, I noticed a number of times where Geno did throw with anticipation.
Here's a 9 yards completion to Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins is circled. The ball is already on its way. The receiver is not yet looking for the ball. Geno knows the route he is running. He reads the coverage correctly. The ball will be on top of the receiver before the corner has time to react.
Here is a 9 yard completion to Brandon Marshall. Again, Marshall is not looking for the ball. Geno is getting it out on time.
Now let's talk about a big third down completion to Eric Decker to extend a touchdown drive. Decker is at the bottom of the image. This route is going to take Chris Ivory into the flat (triangle) and draw the triangled defender to him. By drawing the triangled defender, it will open the space he occupied for Decker to take his route. The window will be tight, though, because the Raiders are using the circled linebacker in the middle to spy on Geno and take away the threat of the run. Once the ball is on the way, he will be able to converge on it.
You can see that as Ivory draws his man, there is a window that is going to open up. The linebacker is already on his way. Geno is getting rid of the ball and throwing to the spot before the window opens.
And you can see here how tight of a window this was.
How much do a couple of throws mean? I am not sure, but this did stick out to me and might be some cause for optimism. These were things Geno did not do in his first few years. Only time will tell whether they were a mirage or early potential signs of growth.