Geno Smith had a rebound game against the Bills in Week 3, passing for 331 yards on 55.2% throwing, with three total touchdowns and two interceptions.
It is a marked improvement over Geno Smith’s three interception 4th quarter against the Patriots the previous week, but we will have to see more to know if that is improvement, or the difference between playing home or away.
What we do know? The pieces around Geno Smith have improved drastically.
Three areas around Smith are helping make the product better:
First, obviously, are his wide receivers. Santonio Holmes, three weeks into his first games back from Lisfranc surgery, seems to be healthy finally, totaling his most catches since last season’s Week 3 win over the Dolphins, and his best ever performance yardage-wise as a Jet. The Jets having their #1 WR and best deep threat back has done wonders for the offense.
But he is not the only one responsible. Jeremy Kerley returned from a one week sabbatical (concussion) and picked up some big 3rd down catches, including two on the Jets first opening drive touchdown in 11 games. Stephen Hill was also at his strongest, not making any mistakes on the way to another big game against the Bills, going for 108 yards and a touchdown.
The second aspect for the improvement is the run game. The Jets brought in Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson in the off-season to replace the meager Shonn Greene in the backfield. But after an injury and an arrest respectively, the two running backs gave way to 3rd string Bilal Powell, who took the preseason opportunity and, quite literally, ran with it.
After totalling the most snaps through the first two games, Powell took claim to the starting job this week, totalling 149 yards on 27 carries – a stunning 5.5 average. Powell hit every hole the offensive line gave him and made some defenders miss, showing off a level few people thought he had.
The best thing for a rookie is a run game that can take the pressure off of him. Even with Ivory going down again with a hamstring injury, Geno Smith can feel a little protection seeing how Powell is playing behind him.
The final area that is seeing improvement is at Offensive Coordinator.
This is a little more abstract, as it is harder to measure the impact through numbers. But what we have seen since Marty Mornhinweg has taken over for the disastrous, Tony Sparano, is that his West Coast Offense gives his players more chances to succeed.
Geno Smith has played well, but not tremendously better than the quarterback play the Jets have gotten in recent years. It is true that when watching Smith, you can tell he can hit any throw the Jets want him to, but that can be said of most of the arms the Jets have brought in since Chad Pennington was drafted. He has not been actually finishing off that thought well.
Smith is currently completing 53.9% of his throws, a number that would have placed him tied for dead last in the league with Jacksonville’s Chad Henne in 2012. Even Mark Sanchez, spoiled confidence, no receivers, and interception machining through last season had a 54.3%.
Is that a do or die number? Certainly not. The provider of one of the greatest rookie seasons ever and off to another great start this year, Andrew Luck, was only slightly better at 54.1%. Still, that is outlier. The two other great rookies of the 2012 class, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson were 4th and 8th in the NFL respectively.
Still, what should give the Jets hope is the Smith-Mornhinweg combination. Geno is starting to take advantage of the big play opportunities the offense can provide. In the Bills game, he averaged 11.41 yards per attempt, an impressively high clip. Certainly that number is heightened by Holmes’ 69 yard TD and Hill’s 51 yard play, but the way Mornhinweg plots out the offense, there will be many opportunities for those types of results in the future.
And indeed, that has been the promise already this season. Smith’s 7.85 yards per attempt would have placed him 5th in 2012, above such elite passers as Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
Seeing Geno accomplish these feats early in his career is a big boost to the team’s confidence in him. If he can improve his passing percentage, more of those types of plays can be completed and the Jets could suddenly have one of deadliest offenses of the Rex Ryan era before we know it.