Last week, I wrote the following: “The last vestiges of hope are that Jeremy Kerley’s return will make a big difference [to Geno Smith]. Smith has missed him, but I fear that’s merely contributed to his overall loss of confidence which may be irredeemable in the short term.” Sure enough, Kerley’s return did coincide with an upturn in performance by Smith.
It’s time to update the stats for Smith when Kerley and Santonio Holmes are both in the lineup, now that we can increase that sample size to four games. He has completed 63% of his passes, averaged 274 yards per game and posted an 83.9 quarterback rating. If that’s who he is when he has a full complement of receivers around him, then that’s not bad at all for a rookie. Next week will provide another interesting test.
Kerley caught four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown, so you might not think that would make too much of a difference, but as noted earlier, Smith threw the ball with more confidence. Maybe that lost confidence is not irredeemable after all.
On Kerley’s 25-yard touchdown, that pass might not even have been intended for him. Holmes had beaten his man by a step down the left sideline, but Kerley, running down the seam, was able to react first to what looked like an underthrown ball and make a leaping grab in traffic. It’s likely someone screwed up there, because no route tree is designed to have three defenders in the area of the primary option. I’d imagine that Kerley was the one at fault (unless Holmes improvised on the fly), but he certainly redeemed himself and there was nothing apologetic about Smith’s celebrations.
Kerley’s other four touches netted just 19 yards but did include a third down conversion on a superbly executed whip route. He almost came up with another diving catch on third down, but couldn’t hold on and was short of the marker anyway.
After sitting out most of last week for unclear reasons, Holmes contributed too, with 55 yards on three catches. He might have had a bigger day, but dropped a well-placed fade route in the end zone. Holmes still doesn’t look 100%.
Kellen Winslow still didn’t play very much (19 snaps) but led the Jets with 61 yards on three first down catches. He made a good leaping catch and also tried (and failed) to hurdle a defender, so he must be feeling good physically. He was also open on a corner route on the first drive, but Smith was hit as he threw so the chance at a possible touchdown was missed. Interestingly, Winslow has been employed as a blocker just 19 times in his last five appearances (78 in his first four).
Both Winslow and Holmes showed some frustration at Smith on a couple of screen passes where he hesitated and then threw the ball in the dirt. On the first occasion, he should have thrown the ball to Holmes immediately and I’m not sure why he didn’t. Then, having hesitated, the chance was gone. On the other, he might have been able to complete the throwback to Winslow if he’d been slightly more patient, but Winslow wasn’t as wide open as the TV replay seemed to show because there was a safety lurking just out of the shot. I don’t have a problem with Smith throwing either of those into the dirt and while the veterans’ frustration is understandable, they must be wary of the fact he’s trying to develop some confidence.
David Nelson contributed again, with four catches including one first down where he leaked out into the flat and was open. Greg Salas, on the other hand, did not play much and was not targeted. He got blown up by a defensive back on Kerley’s end around in the first quarter, preventing him from turning the corner and limiting a nicely designed play to a short gain.
Jeff Cumberland wasn’t targeted and continues to struggle as a blocker following some early season signs that he’d really improved there. He was beaten a couple of times in pass protection and missed three blocks in the running game. He did have one pancake block and another good run block in the second half, but overall continues to grade out negatively, as he has done since the bye week.
Finally, Zach Sudfeld was in for seven plays, but for the third straight week a run was blown up because he got driven back into the backfield.
Next up…the defensive line unexpectedly gets one of its tougher tests of the season.