Following his NFL debut, Jets fans were delirious with the performance of rookie Geno Smith in Sunday’s 18-17 win over the Buccaneers. The second-round pick’s showing certainly caught the attention of the Jets' next opponent — this Thursday at New England — as well.
Smith’s numbers were relatively modest, not surprising given it was his first NFL start and he was going against one of the best defenses in the league. But it wasn’t his 24-of-38 passes for 256 yards with a touchdown and an interception or his 47 yards rushing on six attempts that caught the attention of the Patriots coaching staff.
It was how many Jets made catches in Week 1 that stood out. Eight different targets had a catch from Smith, with four of those players registering multi-reception efforts. Smith spread the ball around efficiently, particularly in the second half.
“Geno Smith had a great game yesterday, but the Jets offense in general as far as what they do, it’s a system in place that they’re implementing that can cause a lot of problems and a lot of different challenges for you for the week,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said on Monday. “That’s really what we’re taking a look at. Geno Smith played well, but he has a great support cast around him.”
That balance in the passing game is part of the reason why Smith had such a successful showing against Tampa Bay. The newly implemented West Coast offense run by the Jets can help mask some of Smith’s deficiencies.
Utilizing short routes and quick passes, many of the dump-off variety, can simplify things for a young quarterback not accustomed to an NFL pass rush or wrinkles in coverages. The Jets were able to exploit that against Tampa Bay, spreading the ball around and trying to get the ball out of Smith’s hands quickly.
Then there is an added wrinkle as Smith brings his own skillset to the West Coast offense. Six times against the Buccaneers, he took off from a collapsing pocket and rushed for positive yardage. That he could recognize quickly that nothing was open downfield and escape to gain yards is something the Patriots linebackers and secondary will have to be wary of on Thursday night.
“I think just in general if you take a look at what they did here and what they’ve been doing is trying to disperse the ball around and have a very well-balanced offense in both the run and the pass game. [They] put the quarterback in good situations to make good throws, good decisions and also give them the ability to make some big plays,” Patricia said.
"With Geno Smith having the ability to move around, he can create some plays on his own that adds an extra element to their system. I think they do a great job of trying to keep the offense balanced and trying to keep you on your toes defensively from the standpoint of the different personnel groups that they can use — formations, motions, shifts, different types of plays that they mix in and out based on down and distance. I think balance is a critical thing that they try to strive for, and I think they’ve done a good job of that.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.