Breaking Down Geno Smith's Disastrous First Preseason Start

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IAugust 26, 2013

Aug 24, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) is hit by New York Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams (57) after throwing a pass during the second quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Things could not have gone much worse for Geno Smith in his first start as the Jets quarterback.

Sure, there were some bright spots, but the memories of a handful of great throws are washed away with the foul taste of three interceptions, each more brutal than the one before it.

In general, he needs some improvement with field awareness and vision, including locking onto his first read.

On the night, Smith went 16-of-30 passing (53.3 percent) for 199 yards, a touchdown and the three picks, with a passer rating of 45.7.

After going three-and-out on his first drive, the Jets put together an eight-play, 53-yard drive (with the Giants committing four penalties for an additional 33 yards) capped off by a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ben Obomanu (circled in yellow).

The Jets came out in 10 personnel (one running back, no tight end, four wide receivers) with Smith in the shotgun and running back Bilal Powell flanking the quarterback to his right. The Giants matched the passing formation with a nickel package featuring four linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs.

Wide receiver Stephen Hill (84) motioned from right to left across the formation, setting up a trips bunch formation on the offense's left.

Powell did a great job of picking up the blitz from the cornerback on the right side of the play, buying time for Smith in the pocket to make his reads.

That extra time proved to be all Smith needed, as he came off his first read (the deep post to wide receiver Ryan Spadola) to find Obomanu crossing behind the linebacker in zone coverage. Smith put the pass right on the money, and Obomanu turned upfield, running the extra 15 yards to the end zone.

That kind of poise in the pocket is exactly what the Jets and their fans were hoping to see from their quarterback.

They would not see much of that poise for the rest of the night.

Smith's first interception was simply a pass thrown about a split-second too late, or a half-foot behind his receiver Spadola (circled in yellow).

The offense came out in 20 personnel (two backs, no tight ends, three receivers) and Smith was once again in the shotgun. The defense came out in the 4-2-5 nickel once again. 

Smith pulled the trigger when his receiver came out of his break, but whether it was thrown too late or simply a little off-target, he gave Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara a chance to make a play on the ball. 

This is a good coaching point for Smith, because he could correct this by simply putting the pass a little more in front of his receiver where only his receiver could make the catch. Sure, it might still get broken up by the outstretched arm of a defender, but it most likely won't get picked off in that situation.

His other two picks, however, were just head-scratchers.

The second of his three interceptions came on another deep post, this time intended for tight end Kellen Winslow (circled in yellow). The Jets came out in the 12 personnel grouping (one back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) with Smith once again in the shotgun.

Smith really shouldn't have thrown this ball.

On one hand, he would have had to throw his hardest and most accurate pass for it to thread the needle and hit his target. Giants linebacker Keith Rivers was stuck to Winslow like glue in coverage.

On the other hand, he would have had to put some air under it, anyway. Obomanu ran a drag route across the field and brought a defensive back along with him, in front of the area Smith was aiming for.

Despite the interceptions, there were a handful of nice throws on the night.

He had a beautiful deep throw to Stephen Hill (circled in yellow) in the second quarter. The Jets came out with the 20 personnel grouping again, matched this time by the Giants' "big nickel" in which they have a safety in the box acting as a linebacker.

Stephen Hill simply ran past Amukamara, and Smith floated one in front of his speedy receiver.

The pass landed in the perfect spot, where it could only have been caught or fallen incomplete. Hill rewarded a great throw by his quarterback with a nice grab with outstretched hands.

On the very next play, things went south for Smith.

Jets fans had some deja vu on Smith's third interception, when his short pass was snuffed out by a defensive end. Luckily, this one was not returned.

The Jets came out with the 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end, two wide receivers) and sent Powell (29) in motion to split out wide. Giants defensive end Justin Tuck gave the illusion he was coming on the rush, but he dropped quickly into coverage when he saw Smith stare down tight end Jeff Cumberland (circled in yellow).

Smith may have thought Tuck was going to continue his rush, but he also may have thought Tuck was going to peel off onto fullback Tommy Bohanon (40) running a route into the flat. 

It was interesting to see Smith struggle both with releasing the ball too quickly before digesting his read and holding onto the ball too long, staring down his receiver while waiting for him to come open. 

Again, though, Smith would flash some potential.

He threw a nice pass to Kellen Winslow (cirlced in yellow) on a 10-yard flag pattern to the left sideline. Smith would use the play-action fake to Ivory to hold the linebacker and safety, allowing Winslow to get to the sideline uninterrupted.

The throw was low, but again, this is a good example of him putting the pass where only his receiver could get it. Winslow is a solid pass-catching tight end and is used to making some tough catches, having worked with the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before making his stop in New York.

Even despite some solid throws in the second half, Smith found a way to end it on a bad note.

Yes, Smith committed the Dan Orlovsky in the fourth quarter by running out of the back of his own end zone for a safety, prompting quite the reaction on Twitter.

Can the Jets count on Smith to be ready for NFL action in Week 1, when the games matter and the bullets are real? 

They may have no choice, if Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury turns out to be anything serious. The Jets announced Sanchez is day-to-day, but the fact that we're even talking about the possibility that Sanchez should start over Smith, given what we know about Sanchez, tells you all you need to know about how poorly things went for Smith on Saturday night.



Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.