The Jets reached for a college quarterback in the draft. They claimed his athleticism was just too good to pass up. And they hoped in a few years he’d be able to be that spark plug to lead them into the playoffs.
He has turned into exactly that.
Only that quarterback isn’t the glorified handoff machine Mark Sanchez, it’s slasher Brad Smith, who was taken in the fourth round out of Missouri in ’06.
“The guy is a phenomenal athlete,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “Now we’re really taking advantage of it.”
Smith, fresh off a franchise-record 106-yard kickoff return in Week 16 against the Colts, racked up 92 yards rushing on four carries and a touchdown against the Bengals on Sunday. Smith has comfortably taken over for the injured Leon Washington in the Wildcat, along with a few other formations.
“There’s no replacing Leon, but I’ve done a pretty good job of stepping in until he comes back,” said Smith who also has seven receptions this season. “I’m just glad to help.”
So is his offense, which needed an added dimension to truly become a contender. The Jets enter Saturday’s wild-card matchup at Cincinnati as the league’s top rushing team, but they needed a way to keep defenses on their toes. Sanchez hasn’t done it consistently, throwing for less than 160 yards in five of his last six games, but Smith can enter and immediately scare a defense with his legs or his arm. After all, he was the first player in NCAA history to run for 4,000 yards and pass for 8,000.
“He can do it all,” receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “He’s the X factor.”