Got a Case of the Mondays? Fear not! Columnist and TheJetsBlog Podcast co-host Corey Griffin has you covered every Monday morning with thoughts, ideas and opinions about all things Jets.
Corey Griffin, TheJetsBlog.comIt took all of one series Sunday to realize this was a very different Jets offense. This group, and these playcalls, were nothing like the predictable unit that trudged through most of last season. This offense was pass-happy but with a purpose.
Marty Mornhinweg had a plan.
At first, the plan was alarming. Seeing Geno Smith, a rookie quarterback, throw at a 38-attempt pace in his first NFL start tends to set off sirens. And watching him get taken out for the sake of gadgetry, at times, seemed counter-productive. Within the frenzy of most of the first half, Mornhinweg’s calls appeared haphazard and without rhythm.
But stepping back from final result, it was clear this was not about throwing for the sake of throwing, or wildcat for the sake of wildcat. Mornhinweg knew the Jets would not win with Geno handing the ball off 60 percent of the time against this defense, so he set about finding creative ways to give Geno room to operate. He called a pass-heavy game to back the Bucs’ defensive backs off the line of scrimmage and used the wildcat to help create just enough of a running game to keep Tampa’s front seven somewhat honest. Mornhinweg wasn’t alone in his plan, around the league
The key to all of this was a quarterback Mornhinweg could trust to throw the ball often without making the bone-headed mistake that would torpedo the offensive coordinator’s plan. For one game, he had that in Geno. The rookie displayed a calm that Jets fans haven’t seen from a quarterback in several years – some would say longer than that.
Never was this calm more evident than when Geno was on the run. He rarely seemed out of control, never tried for “hero yards” and so the runs always ended without the kind of hit that far too many running QBs end up taking.
Officially, Geno only ran the ball six times, but each of those attempts went for positive yardage and three were good enough for first downs. Even more impressive was when Geno chose to run. He left the pocket more than he should have, but that’s just the way rookies are. When a play starts to break down, a rookie QB’s instinct is to find space. Geno, though, didn’t run because he was frantic. He ran because there was open field in front of him and because that was the safe play.
It was the same thinking that led him to drop the ball off to the running back or to hit the underneath receiver rather than attempt to make a big play that could end in a bigger mistake.
Geno made better decisions in his first career start than Mark Sanchez made for most of the 2012 season. Now healthy, he looked like a completely different quarterback than the one that was visibly rattled against the Giants in the third preseason game.
On the Jets’ lone touchdown-producing drive, Smith rebounded from bad turnovers on back-to-back drives to lead a six-play, 31-yard drive. He overcame a costly 10-yard penalty in the middle of it and showed impressive chemistry with tight end Kellen Winslow.
After halftime, Geno led the Jets to twice as many punts as scoring drives, but continued to utilize his legs and his head to create yardage without giving the ball away. Seeing he could trust Geno – or perhaps knowing it all along – Mornhinweg continued to put the ball in Smith’s hands against a defense that appeared to be closing in on the rookie. With a creative and sensible plan backing him, Geno engineered a 14-play, 65-yard drive that last over six minutes and ended in the go-ahead field goal.
When the Bucs answered that drive with their own go-ahead kick, Geno and Mornhinweg were left with only 34 seconds to respond. There weren’t many expectations at the start of those 34 seconds. Perhaps it would end with a Hail Mary or an ill-fated maze of laterals or maybe even an extra-long field goal attempt.
Instead, Geno once again used his legs to make a play.
Smith knew he needed as many yards as he could get, but with no timeouts in Rex’s pocket the play had to end out of bounds. Whether or not Lavonte David’s hit was late is moot. Smith forced David to make a play on a running quarterback along the sidelines. The refs are almost always going to make that call. Even if David’s hit never happened, Geno still would’ve picked up a first down and gotten out of bounds in Bucs territory with time left on the clock.
It was a smart play, the kind a rookie quarterback won’t always make.
Whether this kind of smart, heady play carries over to Thursday night’s game against the Patriots remains to be seen. There are plenty of young quarterbacks that were calm one minute and frantic the next. Even Sanchez had a halfway-decent debut oh-so-many moons ago. But if he makes the smart play six or seven times out of 10, Geno might give the Jets enough of an offense to remain competitive for most of the season.
And maybe that’s good enough.
#FoodPorn of the week
It’s a #jets donut for dessert.