Geno Smith got his jaw broken today by what was termed a "sucker punch" during a locker room altercation with teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali. Geno is now out 6-10 weeks. Enemkpali is out forever, as he was immediately cut by the Jets. Some of the ramifications are as follows.
The starting quarterback for at least the first 2 weeks of the season, and possibly through week 7, is now Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was by most accounts having a somewhat underwhelming training camp. Nonetheless, his experience working in the Chan Gailey offense as well as his recent track record suggest the Jets may not take a big hit in terms of quarterback play in the weeks Fitzpatrick starts. In the longer term, this muddies the water for Geno's career. If Fitzpatrick is having some success in Geno's absence, will Geno have an opportunity to regain his job? How will the long layoff affect Geno's development and mastery of the offense? This would seem to be a big blow to Geno's long term prospects with the Jets. It certainly is not something that can't be overcome, but it would seem that Geno's fate is no longer entirely in his own hands. Should Fitzpatrick enjoy success in Geno's absence, one could envision Geno never getting an opportunity to regain the starting spot.
2015 fourth round draft pick Bryce Petty seemed slated to enjoy a redshirt year learning how the quarterback position is played in an NFL offense. Now Petty is one big hit away from becoming the starting quarterback for the New York Jets. This is a big deal. Prior to Geno's broken jaw the Jets were secure knowing if either of the first two quarterbacks were hurt or just playing terribly, a minimally competent if somewhat underwhelming option was available to step in. Now there is only Petty, who is unlikely to be anywhere near NFL ready. This development may prompt the Jets to sign some veteran backup quarterback in the next few days so as to avoid the possibility of Petty being thrust into a starting spot long before he's ready.
Barring injuries to those ahead of him on the depth chart, Enemkpali was not going to start this year. Nonetheless, it was certainly possible that he would play a valuable role as a situational pass rusher. That possibility is now gone. This is not a crushing blow, but added to the injuries to Antonio Allen and Dee Milliner and the suspension of Sheldon Richardson, the depth of the Jets' defense, which looked so impressive in May, is rapidly thinning out. Since this is still a team that is likely to go only as far as the defense takes it, the steady erosion of defensive talent is a worrisome development.
With the starting quarterback, arguably the team's best defensive player not named Revis, the team's second round draft pick and possibly best deep threat in Devin Smith, the team's possible lead slot receiver in Owusu and several defensive backups slated to play some important roles on this team all gone for various time periods, this Jets season is getting off to a very rough start. The team came into camp with the best depth seen around these parts for some time. It is going into the first preseason game considerably reduced in that respect. One way to look at this is an opportunity for some of the young guys deeper down on the depth chart to step up and make a name for themselves. Another way to look at it is this team is becoming increasingly suspect in its ability to compete in the AFC East. Time will tell which perspective has greater merit.