Return to 7: Patriots 1, 2014

The expected starter for the Jets is currently Geno Smith. There’s a lot of fans out there wincing at that name but are they right to? I’m looking back at Geno Smith’s performances from the moment he started to the end. Each post will focus more-so on the game at hand rather than the full picture of Geno Smith’s play but still keep the full picture in mind. All videos are posted on twitter in these two threads for Geno Smith’s 2013 and 2014.

We’ve got to see what the Jets offense looks like before we go into the actual game.

Entering the year, Decker was facing an injured hamstring. That injury got worse in week 2 forcing Decker to leave early. He only played a few snaps in week 3 against Chicago and rather than heal, he continued to play in week 4 only to then suffer a setback and be forced to miss all of week 5.

It’s now week 7 and he’s still in the process of healing. He’s the best player on this offense even when injured.

Cumberland, Nelson, and Kerley make up a very poor supporting cast. I’ve already explained in Geno vs Denver the issues with this cast. The short version is none of them are good at getting open consistently and they don’t have a big catch radius which compounds the need for them to actually get open. Meanwhile Jace Amaro, still the second best weapon on the Jets passing game, is only seeing 38% of the snaps. I don’t care what excuse Rex has, this group of receivers is abysmal and their second best player is being left on the bench.

Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory are actually a capable duo in this game. They provide real support and make some strong runs throughout. Both however are still mostly useless in the passing game but both do make some contribution near the end of the game.

Onto the game plan, the Patriots at this point have been on fire. After an embarrassing loss against Kansas City they’ve been destroying teams.

Brady’s been destroying teams.

The Jets have to hold together long drives to stop the Patriots from running up the score. New England has a weak situation occurring in the middle of their DL but have two good edge rushers in Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones. Their coverage unit is amongst the best in the league with a rented CB duo of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, aided by home-grown Devin McCourty sitting behind them. It’s another tough defensive unit back to back, this one more beatable than the last.

Onto the game:

Thursday night quickly starts with Shane Vareen grabbing a 49 yard touchdown like nothing, so it’s on the Jets to respond. There’s a cover-1 Man look on the pre-snap along with a double a-gap blitz being shown. The blitz comes with only 1 LB as the other drops into robber coverage. At this point, the reads simplify into watching the two In routes since the robber can only double one of them and has to leave the other. Kerley’s In route clears out room for Cumberland, and Geno takes that throw. The only thing to not like is Geno’s movement in the pocket, which as usual is sloppy and hard to follow.

The narrative around Geno Smith’s inability to go through reads or sit in pockets is what leads me to be regularly obnoxious in my twitter posts. There is an opening in the middle of the field to throw to Jace Amaro which he should’ve realistically thrown to, but QBs will miss reads whether they’re Geno Smith or Aaron Rodgers. What they do when they miss their reads or make mistakes is worth looking at and here Geno realizes the window is no longer safe, the pocket is starting to get uncomfortable, and he leaves to extend the play. He pumps, holds the coverage and runs directly in front of Revis for a first down.

More cover-1 man looks. The Patriots are well disciplined and swap responsibilities after the snap on the right side. The Corner/Whip/Flat combo doesn’t work as a result. Geno looks at it for just the right amount of time before turning to Kerley, who at that point i’m almost certain is improvising. He recognizes it, and immediately throws the ball right at him. This is a nice, non-design play created by Kerley’s great break coupled with Geno being right on time while also remaining patient enough to scan the field for more options than just strong side play-design. However, Aboushi’s hold takes this away from the Jets and they will be forced to settle for a FG on this drive.

I don’t even know if there’s a point of explaining this play. Some speak for themselve, and this is one of them. When his accuracy looks like this, it’s amazing.

Despite his drops, Jace is the second best weapon on the Jets. That really is more of a slight on the Jets receivers but Jace isn’t bad, just drop prone.

When the motion shows Darrelle Revis slowly walking towards the line, a sign of zone coverage can be seen. The route combination on the right side becomes a deep out for the In-line TE Cumberland, a deep curl on the wing TE Amaro, and finally a drag for Sudfeld. You can tell that all the defenders have dropped back, allowing the underneath throw and Geno begins to step to left. That step widens the throwing lane Geno has to Amaro and allows him to throw a precise dart without a chance for a defender to play this. A QB’s motion is a weapon that can be utilized to bait defenders and widen lanes and he’s done it more than once in his career.

Here’s a tough spot. In a vacuum, this looks like the wrong decision, Geno’s throwing to Nelson on 3rd and 11 who is completely covered over the middle. It’s the best pass you can make against this coverage but who cares when the player is completely covered? These almost perfect throws happen often in his first two years, but all that means is “throws that weren’t good enough to beat the coverage.” On this play, you can see exactly how thought process works. Decker falls on his route as the first read, Geno looks over the middle where there’s absolutely no one. He then checks Kerley on the flat route and then comes back to throw to Nelson.

He’s not right to throw to Nelson over Kerley. He should’ve taken Kerley. But in general, this may be the more correct play. With 3rd and 11 and no one in the middle of the field, a better separated WR would’ve been the right decision. Nelson isn’t separated though, and Geno still throws at him. Geno has this occur often where he tests a tight coverage and he doesn’t beat it. If i was grading Geno for this, it’s a negative play for not taking Kerley after looking at him, even though this is where the read would likely tell you to go once you saw the middle of the field empty out.

This doesn’t need a lot of dwelling, Ivory is just not a good blocker.

Starting with the throw to Nelson, Geno stops playing optimally. This play is a good example of that, he could and probably should throw it over the middle immediately once he sees the coverage drop into the Cover-3 deep coverage. Instead, he chooses to play with the pocket and avoid a rusher. He manages to do that, so now he’s extended the play. That’s when he should throw it to Nelson and let him do the work. Instead, he tries to run it himself. Hard to understand this sequence. It’s an error that results in a positive play, but an unnecessary one. The original throw to the curl over the middle may have gotten more than this.

That problem has been visible in a few games this year.

I write that there’s a small chance for Decker, but i’m wrong, there’s a large chance. This should be the first read. The single high safety is on the left hash, Decker’s in the slot on the right side running a post. That should be the throw. It’s a mistake to get off of that side, and Geno’s sub-optimal playing is hurting the team right now after a great start.

The efficiency ebbs and flows back and forth. On the first play, he easily gives the ball to Decker who beats Revis on an in route. In the latter, he misses a drag and ends up taking a sack for no reason. It’s followed up on the next drive with Geno’s worst play of the game.

Geno’s ability to roll out and extend plays is sometimes awful and sometimes great. This is where it’s awful. When the entire defense is coming at you like this, he needs to learn to just let it go.

Geno bounces back quickly. For one quarter of play he’s a weak link on the team, and then he’s back to playing at high capacity. This decisive throw into the middle was missing in DEN, and i pointed it out in the article about it. It’s good to see it here.

Sometimes you just let the play speak for itself.

The drive ends with a touchdown pass. Geno had many of the “good throws but not good enough” variety in this game, but not this time. The only difference between this and many plays in the season where the ball doesn’t get past however is the DB. One of the less thought about aspects of having talented players is that they keep the DBs eyes on them and not on the QB. Somehow, Cumberland is able to keep Chung’s eyes on him even though he has good coverage. It allows this pass to slip past him.

Geno’s timing is also well done. His eyes stay in the middle of the field until Cumberland has passed the safety so that there’s no way for him to affect the throw.

Following the TD is a 2pt conversion attempt. Geno throws a rushed inaccurate ball, asking too much from Jace Amaro. After a drive of making plays it’s a bad time for inaccuracy to appear.

The final drive is a near repeat of the final sitaution in Denver. Responsible to move the ball from the 10 yard line into FG territory, Smith nearly delivers. The end result is a 58 yard field goal try that is ultimately blocked. An unfortunate end.

This was a good game for Geno. However, wrinkles appear that need to be answered as we get into his next stage of playing with a better team. Will he be willing to give the ball to Kerley (Enunwa) when he’s open instead of trying to force it into the “right” decision of Nelson (Decker) when he’s covered? Will he start taking those drags/curls in the middle of the field against deep coverage when the talent can easily turn those into bigger gains? These are real questions, and they’re actually hard to answer. The #NeverGeno crowd will say these are internal problems that can’t be solved but proving that this isn’t an issue stemming from not trusting your talent to deliver is a hard task. It’s just as hard to prove that he won’t be doing this with better talent. But the definite issues still lie in how he plays with the pocket, from his movement to his rollouts. He needs to learn how to dance in the spotlight better, until then he’ll keep hearing calls for the hook.

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