New York Jets' Lack of Receiver Talent Has Crippled Geno Smith This Season

John SheaContributor IIIDecember 10, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 8: Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets tumbles over Brandian Ross #29 of the Oakland Raiders during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 8, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

New York Jets (6-7) rookie quarterback Geno Smith has endured predictable ups and downs throughout the rugged brutality of his first full season as a starting signal-caller in the NFL.

Smith has been plagued by a vast lack of talent at skill positions though, fueling his inadequate game-play toward the pinnacle of demise. The Jets' 23-year-old QB leads the NFL with 20 interceptions through 13 games while completing only 55.4 percent of his pass attempts.

A majority of Smith's struggles should be attributed to a glaring inability to execute the fundamentals of the quarterback position, although the fact that New York doesn't boast a legitimate playmaking threat on the perimeter has exacerbated his inefficiencies.

The Jets' leading wide receiver is Jeremy Kerley, who had missed three consecutive contests prior to last Sunday's showdown against the Oakland Raiders (4-9). Kerley had a breakout campaign in 2012, but has been hampered by nagging injuries all season. The Jets' formidable slot receiver is a solid target, but isn't a game-changing type of player.

Jets' Top Receiving Targets
Jeremy Kerley3243.13122
Santonio Holmes1647.6185
Stephen Hill2428.5197

Kerley has recorded 32 receptions on 50 targets for 388 yards and three touchdowns. He leads the Jets' receiving corps with 22 first downs while averaging a respectable total of 43.1 receiving yards per game.

The fact that Kerley boasts the best all-around receiving numbers on the Jets' current roster is a clear-cut indicator that New York lacks sufficient talent at receiver. This was a big-time concern before the season began and it continues to reign prominent down the stretch.

Supposed-to-be No. 1 Santonio Holmes has been marginally effectively, but has seldom played this season. Holmes is a fraction of the type of player he used to be and no longer features breakaway speed. He lacks chemistry with Smith, who has connected with the veteran wideout just 16 times on 41 targets for 381 yards and one touchdown.

The roundabout inconsistency that Jets' receivers have demonstrated this season has paved the way for Smith's gaping ineffectiveness to become exposed on a massive level.

New York faced a devastating salary cap situation last offseason, which hugely disabled general manager John Idzik from pursuing game-changers. The Jets opted to reconstruct an aging defense instead of revamping their atrocious offense. That decision has paid dividends as the Jets flaunt one of the top defenses in the NFL.

The latter has created a distinct disconnect between the Jets' caliber of offense in comparison to their ferocious defense though. It could be easily contended at the start of the 2013 season that Smith was not ready to be a professional starting quarterback.

He was essentially thrown into the fire without training wheels, a similar mistake the Jets had made with Mark Sanchez, who was constantly relegated to "game manager."

After enduring a continuous brigade of turnovers that frequently crippled the Jets' ability to put points on the scoreboard, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was forced to dial back the playbook in an effort to better enable his offense to sustain drives.

That strategy has faltered though. The Jets average roughly 17.4 points per game, which ranks second to last in the NFL. Their scoring struggles are often attributed to Smith, but the former collegiate standout simply doesn't have a reliable band of playmakers surrounding him.

The Jets' depth chart at wide receiver features a band of castoffs from other teams that have essentially been thrown into the mix. Wideouts David Nelson and Greg Salas are hard-working players that relish every opportunity they're granted, but they aren't formidable playmaking threats on the outside.

Smith takes the brunt of the blame for the Jets' issues on offense, but he isn't the sole catalyst driving one of the least effective offenses in the NFL.

Still, it's highly possible for Idzik and Co. to seek a potential long-term solution at quarterback this offseason. The biggest name on the open market could be Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler, who owns a 55-46 career record while throwing 149 touchdown passes against 108 interceptions. It seems likely that Cutler would want to remain in Chicago though, especially considering the group of talent on that offense.

It wouldn't be surprising for the Jets to check in on Cutler if the Bears are unable to reach a deal with their current starter before free agency commences. But bringing in an above-average QB like Cutler, who features stellar arm strength, won't matter if the Jets fail to improve their cast of playmakers on offense.

Smith is noticeably unable to read through his progressions in the pocket and often telegraphs his pass attempts, but a lack of talent on the perimeter is a major contributing component of his glaring inefficiencies.