The Geno Smith era will begin for the New York Jets this weekend, and how long it lasts will be largely dependent on the performance he has against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ revamped secondary, a unit that now features two All-Pro defensive backs.
“They’ve improved their secondary from last year with the acquiring of [cornerback] Darrelle [Revis] and the safety, [Dashon] Goldson, both two of the best players at their position in the NFL,” said Smith in a conference call with the Tampa Bay media Wednesday.
Smith and four-year starter Mark Sanchez had been immersed in a heated competition for the starting job in camp, until Sanchez was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Now it’s up to Smith to lead, and if he shows enough, especially in Revis’ return to New York, the job can remain his after Sanchez’ return.
“We don’t like to pay attention to jersey numbers or who a guy is, but, at the same time, you got to be mindful of it. So I’ll be watching for number 24 out there, Darrelle, [and] I’ll be watching for the safety (Goldson).”
When asked if he’d try to test Revis, who will see action for the first time since a season-ending knee injury last year, Smith said he doesn’t see why not. There is some hesitation, however.
“You’ve got to respect a guy like Darrelle. He’s known for shutting guys down…If a guy’s open, no matter who it’s on, he needs to get the ball. But I’m definitely going to be focused and paying attention to where he lines up because he can be a game-changer. He is a game-changer who can take away one side of the field.”
Just how much of a game-changer? In 2011, his last full season, Revis had 21 pass breakups and four interceptions. In 2009, 31 pass breakups and six interceptions. Tack on one of the league’s premier cover safeties in the league, and Smith could be in for a challenge.
“He’s not a guy that you want to test. Plays are tight because he can make plays on the ball that your average DB can’t.”
Smith was quite the game-changer himself in college, finishing with 98 career touchdowns and throwing for 11,662 yards, shattering all sorts of quarterbacking records at West Virginia.
But he saw what an opportunistic defense can do at the next level when he was sacked three times and took a safety in the third preseason game against the Giants. He’s working hard to correct those mistakes now so he’ll be better for when it really counts Sunday.
“There is a challenge there, but every single challenge that I’m faced with I’ll just take head on,” said Smith. “That’s what I’ve tried to do with this thing. So far it’s been good to me…I’ve been progressing, I’ve been steadily getting better, and I’m going to continue to grow and get better as a player.”