For months we speculated on time and potential and hope for the future. On Sunday, these three ideas come together finally.
Jets vs. Panthers: The realization of Geno Smith is here.
Down to 3 games remaining in his rookie season and two of them being against the Browns and Bills, Smith is left with one truly challenging game on the Jets schedule. A road trip to Carolina. Combine that with the possibility of winning two games in a row for the first time in his career and the tiniest light of a hope to reach the playoffs, if Geno Smith is going to make anything of his rookie year and sway the critics, the time is now.
With only a 55.4% completion percentage to go along with 2,475 yards, 13 total TDs (4 rush), 20 INT, and 4 fumbles, the inaugural year of the Geno Smith Era has had little to build on outside of a couple exciting last-second comebacks and his one strong turnover-less victory against the Saints.
Coming off a surprisingly potent game against the hapless Raiders, Smith has a chance to complete the sweep of the NFC South.
Of course, what he needs most is a rubber stamp of approval for his future from management.
With a particularly stacked 2014 quarterback class arriving, he does not have the luxury that most QBs do most of the time. Whatever potential he has will have to be on display against one of the top NFL defenses.
And it is a defense that is currently #1 against the run, a ranking taken from the Jets vaunted run D last week. What this means is for whatever help Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell have been in the run game for Geno, that may be stripped away, leaving Geno to show us his mettle on his own.
So this might come down to Smith’s arm and legs.
To beat the Panthers, Smith will have to prove he has learned and taken forward steps in the last 13 weeks. The Jets offense will have no chance if he cannot take care of the ball and the defense will be handicapped if they are on the wrong side of the time of possession battle once again while combating short fields.
Because on the other side of the field is Cam Newton, a quarterback who has been coming into his own this year, leading a team that almost fired their coach a few weeks in, now on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Newton himself has a bit of a connection with the Jets’ future as well.
In 2010, the Panthers had taken their own QB, in Jimmy Clausen, with the 48th pick in the draft.
After a year of anything but good quarterback play, Carolina had the first pick in the 2011 draft and had Cam in their cross hairs. In what could be a repeat situation this draft, a team had to choose between a QB with very little time under center and poor results who may have a chance to improve in the future, or what looked to be a much better chance at a franchise QB sitting in front of them.
They chose Newton and got their franchise QB.
If Geno Smith cannot deviate from Clausen’s previous path and get a big performance Sunday, we could be seeing fate repeat itself again.