The year 2013 has been a whirlwind so far for New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith. After falling from the potential #1 overall pick in April’s 2013 NFL Draft all the way out of the first round, Smith fired his representation and went No. 39 overall to the New York Jets, who aren’t known as a hotbed for quarterback development.
After winning the “competition” with Mark Sanchez by default thanks to Sanchez’s injury, expectations were low for Smith coming off of a very poor preseason performance against the Giants. He proceeded to exceed those expectations, showing great poise and ability while leading the Jets to a Week 1 victory over Tampa Bay.
Week 2 was a different story, however, as Smith struggled in a 13-10 loss to the New England Patriots and couldn’t get the Jets over the hump in the fourth quarter, throwing interceptions on three of the Jets’ final four drives. While his statistics so far this season look bad (39-for-73, 470 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT, 1 fumble), a look at the game film will help explain why.
Issues with Accuracy and Footwork
The most important trait for any NFL quarterback is accuracy and it’s something Smith has struggled with in his first two games. Most young quarterbacks will struggle hitting receivers down the field but Smith has been on target on many of his deep throws. Where he’s really struggled is on short timing routes.
The first example is from the third quarter of the New England game and while the Jets ended this drive with a touchdown, this play could have very easily resulted in one. The first problem is Smith’s footwork, which is consistently poor when he starts under center. His base and balance look okay in this screenshot, but at this moment he raises up to throw the football rather than firing from a set position.
As you can see through the rain in the next shot, the ball is low and in front of Winslow, causing him to go to the ground to secure the catch. While Mike Mayock noted on the broadcast that Winslow may not have needed to go down, a better throw gives him no option but to stay on his feet. With less than 10 yards to the endzone, this play is a touchdown with improved placement.
Later in the game Smith missed another short route, this time on a third-down pass to Bilal Powell who ran a circle route out of the backfield. Watch as Smith falls backwards as he throws with a narrow base that guarantees his throw will be all arm.
Smith certainly has the arm strength to make these kinds of throws and even though he couldn’t step into the throw, he could have kept a wider base and stayed balanced enough to hit Powell in stride. The play wouldn’t have gone for a first down anyway with the safety closing quickly, but it’s another example of Smith’s struggles with accuracy on short passes.
It wasn’t all bad for Smith however, as he did complete a nice crossing pattern to Santonio Holmes over the middle. You’ll notice how his front foot is pointed to the target and his base is wider than shoulder length, allowing him to step into the throw and put it in front of Holmes for yards after the catch. It’s amazing what proper footwork and fundamentals can help a player as talented as Smith accomplish.
Smith has impressed me with his accuracy down the field where he can use his strong arm to put the ball where it needs to be. His mechanics are still terrible on the play below but he put the ball on the money to Clyde Gates running open at the top of the screen.
Smith actually hopped into this throw, landing with another narrow base and leaning back as he released the pass. Yet he still placed the ball right in between the cornerback and converging safety with a perfect combination of velocity, touch and accuracy in the pouring rain. It’s throws like this that lead me to believe Smith can be a good NFL quarterback if he cleans up his mechanical problems.
(Part 2 of 2 coming later today)
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