The ball may look pretty in mid-air, but Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith’s three-interception performance in a 13-10 loss at the Patriots wasn’t just the result of this being his second NFL start. In fact, it had everything to do with his technique.
Smith fell to the second round in the draft based on his rawness and flaws in mechanics.
Former Giants quarterback Scott Brunner, who has mentored the likes of Joe Flacco, sees them popping up in the rookie.
“Geno is a talented young quarterback. He has a tremendous skill set,” Brunner said. “Right now he is going through phases when his physical skill set and his mental skill set are not in sync. As a result his fundamentals regarding his footwork and decision making break down. When that happens, usually in critical situations, he has little chance of success.”
The answer as to why Smith floundered against the Patriots with three very different interceptions is explained in his throwing dynamics. With his technique off, passes from Smith that in college would be receptions are now interceptions due to tighter throwing windows and better athletes.
All three interceptions came in the fourth quarter with the Jets trailing and in need of a big play.
On the first interception, which came with 11:20 left in the game, Smith rolled out to his left and tried to lob a pass to wide receiver Santonio Holmes. It was a throw into double coverage and tipped and intercepted by Aqib Talib.
“Watch his back leg. His weight actually shifts ever-so-slightly back as he is in the throwing motion. That is the opposite of what one wants,” said Dr. Eric Goff, the chair of the physics department at Lynchburg University, who was asked by Metro to examine how the physics of starting under center affects a quarterback. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports.” “Let linear momentum help by allowing one’s center of mass to move forward with the throw. His feet are too close to together, too. He cannot generate the necessary torque for a powerful throw downfield. His pass is short.”
Brunner, who trains combine athletes at TEST Sports Clubs in Martinsville, N.J., sees similar flaws in Smith’s abilities while moving.
“He needs to become more comfortable with moving his feet while making his reads,” Brunner said. “Most young quarterbacks get into trouble because they make their reads then move their feet. This means they are late. He needs to find ways to save fractions of seconds throughout the process of executing the plays.”
Footwork was again the major issue in the second interception, where Smith badly underthrew wide receiver Clyde Gates in a pass picked off by Alfonzo Dennard.
“Once again, poor technique is keeping Smith from getting the ball farther downfield. He is not moving his upper body forward enough, i.e., he is flat-footed,” Goff said. “Without the help of a rotating core and an upper body moving forward, he simply can’t generate enough torque for the throw he wants. Again, his pass is short.”
The third interception came along the sideline when Smith underthrew a pass intended for Stephen Hill that was taken away easily by Talib.
The mistakes aren’t just mental but at the core of his technique. This is something that happens when a player falls out of his comfort zone on the field and reacts rather than relies on technique.
“His feet are wide, a bit too wide. His front foot is turned too much to the right to allow him to drive forward. The second image shows the problem with the front foot better than the first image. He is not taking advantage of his upper-leg strength and his core strength,” Goff said. “He needs to maintain a slightly more compact stance, and then drive forward while rotating his upper body. That will give him the torque needed to get his arm rotating fast enough to deliver the ball downfield. His third [throw] is woefully short.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.