Ex-NY Jets QB Geno Smith ready for chance at prime time redemption

Geno Smith, New York Jets

Smith, once the future of the New York Jets, has a chance to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career in a new opportunity in Seattle.

No matter what happens during the remainder of his NFL career, Geno Smith will go down as the answer to a trivia question asked by those who cycle through MetLife Stadium’s gates, no matter whether they wear green or blue.

For New York Jets fans, Smith is the last green thrower to toss a perfect game on the gridiron (a 158.3 passer rating) and the only one to do so in the 2010s. In the realms of New York Giants history, he’s the man who ended Eli Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive starts under center.

Smith is finally free from the incessant spotlight of quarterbacking in the metropolitan area, one that has slightly hardened him as he tries to carve out an extended NFL path. While Smith had settled into a backup role in Seattle, a rare injury to Russell Wilson (one expected to keep him out for at least the next three weeks after he was placed on injured reserve) has thrust him back into the gridiron mainstream. His path starts on Sunday night as the Seahawks (2-3) start the process of salvaging their season in prime time against the Pittsburgh Steelers (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

The visit to Pittsburgh will be Smith’s first regular season start since his infamously historic single outing as the Giants’ primary man in December 2017. The trust bestowed in Smith to help the Seahawks in their most desperate hour in a long, long time is the highest vote of confidence since former blue head coach Ben McAdoo controversially inserted Smith into the woebegone Giants’ starting lineup once they were among the earliest eliminated from the 2017-18 playoffs. McAdoo did in spite of only Manning’s streak but the prescience of then-rookie Davis Webb, who had been the Giants’ highest selection at quarterback since the instantly-traded Phillip Rivers went fourth overall on a fateful spring afternoon in 2004.

At the time, a respectable performance (21-of-34, 211 yards, a touchdown, and two lost fumbles in a 24-17 to the Oakland Raiders) wasn’t enough to withstand the fury of Giants fans eager to see their Super Bowl hero go out on any semblance of a “right” note. When McAdoo was ousted, one of the Giants’ first moves was to re-establish Manning as the top passer.

McAdoo had a parting gift for Smith upon his firing after the Oakland debacle.

“When Coach Mac was let go and left the building, I talked to him before he left, and he had told me he felt like I deserved to play the rest of the season,” Smith told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News after his metropolitan departure in 2018. “He believed in me. A lot of people did. Guys wanted me to do well. But there are some things that are out of your control.”

“I’m not going to cry cry over spilled milk over things I can’t control. That’s only going to hinder my success or progress. It just added fuel to fire, made my offseason workouts interesting because I’m working harder. That opportunity was taken away from me for whatever reason, so every time I step on the field or in weight room, that’s my motivation.”

Going into Sunday night’s crucial contest, Smith is slightly more laid back, yet still enthusiastic, as he believes he’s made the most out of the past two-plus seasons through watching Wilson work.

“It’s not like I haven’t been playing football at all. The difference is now, it’s physical reps,” Smith told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. “I’m getting all the reps. You always take mental reps and prepare that way, but this is about physical preparation as well, more than just the mental side of playing quarterback. This week was different because I’m taking physical reps, as well.”

Sunday’s return to the spotlight is nearly four years in the making: Smith spent a year as Rivers’ backup with the Los Angeles Chargers before settling in Seattle in 2019. Wilson’s durability has made the job of Pacific Northwest understudy a bit of an afterthought: Sunday night will mark the first time since New Year’s Day 2012 that someone other than “Russ” will start under center for the Seahawks (that honor going to the late Tavaris Jackson).

Yet, Smith had shown enough, primarily through his lasting starting endeavors with the Jets, that he could be a reliable contingency plan in case of an emergency. The West Virginia alum, after all, had his fleeting flashes of brilliance of green, including those earned in a prime time setting. For example, the second-round pick threw three touchdowns and engineered a game-winning field goal drive in a Monday night triumph in Atlanta as a rookie in 2013. While ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of the standings, Smith managed to provide temporary solace to the tumultuous teams of the 2010s, sending Rex Ryan out on the right note with a 37-24 win over Miami.

Seattle was partly rewarded when Smith allowed them to keep pace in yet another nationally televised instance: as the Seahawks struggled to keep pace with the mighty Los Angeles Rams, the departure of Wilson could’ve been damning.

Instead, Smith rose to the occasion, keeping the increasingly desperate Seahawks in the game through a 131-yard performance that yielded 10 points over his first two drives in the fourth quarter. The affair ended in heartbreak…Smith was forced into a Nick Scott interception when intended receiver Tyler Lockett fell down on a route…but it was enough to keep the faith amongst Seattle brass.

“If Geno is going to play for us some as Russ comes back, you know, he showed that we’re in good hands,” Carroll said in the LA aftermath, per Liz Mathews of Yahoo! Sports. “I was just proud for him and the fact that he hung with us all this time and believed in being part of this program. Then when he got his chance, he did really. That was pretty good.”

“I went right to Geno afterwards and said, you been waiting a long time for your opportunity,” Carroll told reporters. “The faith you’ve shown in our program and us to stay with us, so proud that when he got in there, he did great. He really looked good. He’s been working for that. He’s a talented football player.”

Smith now gets to prove such acument on a long-term basis. The opportunity provided in Seattle affords him a rare chance as a high-profile washout (a status granted through factors partly beyond his control) to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career and perhaps get back on the radars of teams searching for starters.

But Smith appears to be embracing this chance with a sense of healthy abandon, one set to savor every moment of this comeback.

“I’m fresh, I feel like I’m 21 years old. I’m ready!” Smith said during Pittsburgh prep, per Rapoport. “The moment is what it is. We have a Sunday night game in Pittsburgh. It’s one night, not the rest of my life. Mostly, it’s a game I love to play, a game that I’m passionate about. It’s one that I prepare for and am ready for whether I get to play or not. It’s not a chance to showcase anything, that’s how I see it. I’m not going to change my stripes. I’m just looking forward to playing football.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: A mock draft for the bye week

New York Jets

How has the New York Jets’ performance over the first five weeks affected a fateful draft? ESM investigates.

Football fans and analysts alike will find any excuse to make a mock draft, no matter how soon or how far away the legitimate selection meeting is. With the New York Jets having reach their league-mandated open date, now might be one of the few times an in-season mock draft will hit the spot for both casual and die-hard observers alike.

Using the draft board determined by Tankathon, as dictated by the standings entering Week 6 action, ESM unveils a fall mock draft with a special focus on the Jets’ hypothetical selections…

4th overall: RT Evan Neal, Alabama

Joe Douglas’ offensive line revolution has produced mixed results from an inconsistent veteran class (Connor McGovern, George Fant, Greg Van Roten) and rookie arrivals full of promise (Mekhi Becton, Alijah Vera-Tucker).

The pre-bye slate has made it clear that the wall in front of Zach Wilson (sacked 18 times so far) isn’t complete. A combination of a surprisingly stout defense and medical developments abroad allows the Jets to continue construction to continue. Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton has been a popular projection to the Jets’ first slot, especially with so much uncertainty surrounding Marcus Maye. But the uncertain future ahead of Jeff Okudah and his ruptured Achillies may have Detroit (current holders of the No. 2 pick that yielded Wilson last spring) looking into his services.

While the Jets seem to be set on Wilson’s blind side through the first-round selections Becton and Vera-Tucker, drafting the massive Neal (6 feet 7 inches, 360 lbs.) would help fortify the right side. Morgan Moses has held down the fort well but is signed to only a one-year deal. Adding a homegrown talent on the right side for the long-term would welcome in the next step of the offense’s maturity. Already ranking as one of the top blockers in the class of 2022 (a battle staged with fellow SEC rep Kenyon Green and Iowa interior man Tyler Linderbaum), Neal has united size with strong athetlicism in Tuscaloosa. Such nimbleness should help him quickly adjust to the NFL game.

12th overall (from Seattle): EDGE Drake Jackson, USC

The Seahawks’ surprisingly slow start has afforded the Jets two picks among the first dozen after the first five weeks. Time will tell if the final yield from the Jamal Adams trade remains this high, but such a posting in the early going affords the Jets an opportunity to address needs on both sides of the ball. They took care of the Great Wall of Wilson at No. 4, so which defensive area should be addressed eight picks later?

The early stages of this season has revealed the defensive identity the Jets are hoping to create: one that makes quarterbacks uncomfortable and invades backfields. Such a cause could’ve been delayed by the loss of Carl Lawson, but several names have stepped up in his absence. Nothing has driven the point home better than the shiny, new, expensive contract extension bestowed to John Franklin-Myers. With some pleasant surprises peppered in the secondary (i.e. Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols), they can continue bolstering the front seven.

Drafting a USC pass rusher could conjured some sour green memories: the last such Trojan to be drafted in the first round is 2015 arrival Leonard Williams. He’s still in New York, albeit in blue rather than green. Jackson is powerful enough to risk re-opening those wounds as one of the most versatile edge men in the class. His strength and speed (boasting a 4.5 40-time) make him an attractive option, as does his ability to cover receivers in the slot.

The Full First Round

TeamPick
1. JacksonvilleEDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
2. DetroitS Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
3. HoustonQB Malik Willis, Liberty
4. JETST Evan Neal, Alabama
5. Philadelphia (from MIA)CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU
6. Philadelpha (from IND)G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M
7. NY GiantsIOL Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
8. PhiladelphiaLB Christian Harris, Alabama
9. AtlantaQB Matt Corral, Mississippi
10. New EnglandCB Kaiir Elam, Florida
11. Miami (from SF)T Sean Rhyan, UCLA
12. JETSEDGE Drake Jackson, USC
13. WashingtonQB Sam Howell, North Carolina
14. MinnesotaEDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
15. PittsburghCB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson
16. Kansas CityEDGE Geroge Karlaftis, Purdue
17. CincinnatiT Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
18. New OrleansWR Chris Olave, Ohio State
19. TennesseeTE Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M
20. DenverEDGE Myjai Sanders, Cincinnati
21. CarolinaS Jordan Battle, Alabama
22. NY Giants (from CHI)EDGE Zach Harrison, Ohio State
23. ClevelandDT DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M
24. Detroit (from LAR)WR Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
25. Las VegasCB Ahmad Gardner, Cincinnati
26. BuffaloRB Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
27. Tampa BayEDGE Adam Anderson, Georgia
28. Green BayWR Treylon Burks, Arkansas
29. LA ChargersG Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State
30. DallasS Brandon Joseph, Northwestern
31. BaltimoreT Rasheed Walker, Penn State
32. ArizonaT Zion Nelson, Miami (FL)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs. Miami

New York Jets, Adam Gase

Typical New York Jets silliness ensued on Sunday in South Beach, leading to another loss, their first in the post-Le’Veon Bell era.

Le’Veon Bell may be gone, but the results are, alas, the same for the New York Jets.

Three first half touchdown passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick helped the Miami Dolphins build an insurmountable lead at Hard Rock Stadium, en route to an 24-0 win over the Jets. After the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants won in Sunday afternoon’s early window, the Jets (0-6) are the only team in football without a win. New York also becomes the first victim of an NFL shutout in 2020.

ESM looks back on another brutal loss so you don’t have to, tracking down a play from each quarter, for better or worse, that determined the Jets’ present and future in a visit to Florida that was anything but a vacation.

1st Quarter: Miami Vice

The Jets’ problems with penalties are overshadowed by malarkey on both sides of the ball, but they entered Sunday’s game averaging over eight flags per game. Their first half against Miami provided only further fuel for this yellow flag fire, picking up seven infractions before the first half-hour let out. The most egregious sequence came in the final stages of the opening frame. Down only 7-0…which, let’s face it, could be seen as insurmountable by some Jets fans…the Jets actually had a strong drive going, getting to the cusp of the Miami red zone.

Alas, their biggest enemy rose to the occasion: themselves.

The Jets appeared to keep the drive on with a nine-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Breshad Perriman on a one-yard third down, but that was wiped out due to an offensive pass interference penalty of Ryan Griffin. An illegal motion penalty on the next play, later declined, took the spotlight of a Flacco fumble, one that was recovered but pushed the Jets back to the 40, where they opted to punt. Braden Mann, one of the rare silver linings of consistency in New York, downed the ball five yards from the end zone, but Vyncint Smith failed to get on top of it before it went to the back of the end zone…at which point, a Harvey Langi personal foul gave the Dolphins 15 extra yards and giving the Jets a net worth of five yards on the punt.

That sequence, which ended the first quarter, simply highlighted the dysfunctional fire that is Jets football…one that shows little signs of pacifying. Making things all the more brutal for the Jets: that drive that ended in the brutal penalties was the drive on the first half in which they obtained first downs.

2nd Quarter: Offensive Defense

Earlier this week, Gregg Williams took what was perceived as a thinly veiled jab at the offense, claiming the Jets’ struggles at giving up points were “not all defensively”. But his defense certainly didn’t help matters, with their own struggles perfectly on display at the end of the first half.

Williams may nonetheless have had a point; all but one of the Jets’ first half drives (as mentioned above) ended without the team getting a first down, forcing the defense into brutal on-and-off situations throughout the ball game. With Miami getting the ball right before the two-minute warning (a Jakeem Grant punt return for a touchdown stopped only by a Mann tackle), they wasted no time in a third invasion of the Jets’ end zone, a trek amplified by a 44-yard hook-up between Fitzpatrick and Adam Shaheen. Myles Gaskin needed only one play to earn the final yard to glory, giving the Dolphins a 21-0 halftime lead.

3rd Quarter: Ty Ballgame

Somehow, even with Bell having moved to the greener pastures (pun intended) of Kansas City, Frank Gore remained the Jets’ top ball rusher at 11 carries…still getting more opportunities than fourth-round project La’Mical Perine. Perhaps even more surprising, Gore earned more carries than Perine and recent veteran signee Ty Johnson combined. The latter made his mark in a mostly quiet third quarter, Johnson uncorked a 33-yard carry that set up a failed Sam Ficken field goal (his first three-point miss of the season). It was the longest carry by a Jets running back this season, besting matching 13-yard tallies by Bell and Gore. Who knows if Gore will continue to see a lion’s share of the carries, but Johnson’s emergence should not be quickly forgotten, especially on a team that has lost everything there is lose.

4th Quarter: Oh No, Joe

The fourth quarter could’ve been a time to look at the silver lining of an incredible Marcus Maye interception, but the Jets couldn’t even emerge with that fleeting positive. Following Maye’s backside grab, the Jets embarked on another potentially lucrative drive, one that could, at the very least, avoid a shutout. However, Flacco’s scramble of doom cost New York a whopping 28 yards, one that pushed the Jets all the way back into their own territory at the 45. Flacco had the opportunity to throw the ball away, but instead committed a rookie mistake at 35.

If Darnold continues to miss games, the Jets’ next step is simple…it’s time to activate fourth-round thrower James Morgan, if only to see what they have and at least add some intrigue to this ten-game dirge.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Joe Flacco prepares for another start

With Sam Darnold still ailing, Joe Flacco will make his second consecutive start for the New York Jets on Sunday.

The New York Jets announced on Wednesday that Joe Flacco will make his second straight start with Sam Darnold still ailing from a shoulder injury.

Flacco will make his first road start in Jets colors, as the New York head to Miami on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). The match previously scheduled for November but shifted forward due to schedule adjustments enforced by COVID-19 outbreaks across the league.

A matchup with Miami could be exactly what Flacco needs to earn what could be a final blaze of glory in a strong NFL career. Numerous celebrities are listed as minority owners of the Dolphins (including tennis legends Serena and Venus Williams), but Flacco could make a case to add himself to that list. He owns a 7-0 record against Miami and owns a 109.4 passer rating over those six showdowns.

Flacco was aware of his success against the Dolphins when fielding questions on Wednesday. When his streak came up, Flacco jokingly accused the inquirer of “jinxing it”.

“I’ve been fortunate to play on a lot of good teams and you know some that maybe weren’t as good outcome wise at the end of the year but we still have some good teams and some good players that showed up to play on Sundays,” Flacco said of the streak, per transcripts provided by the Jets. “So, (I’ve) played down there a few times and definitely know a little bit about getting ready for the heat, doing all those things and I think if we prepare right and hydrate right, then we’re in good shape and then we can be the team that you know tries to wear the other team out, even though we’re coming down there only one time a year.”

The monopoly over Miami began in Flacco’s rookie campaign in 2009 after first-round call from the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco threw for 232 yards and a score in an October win in Miami before managing a 27-9 decision in the AFC wild card playoffs three months later. More recently, Flacco earned his most recent of three career four-touchdown pass games in a 38-6 shellacking in Baltimore in December 2016.

The Jets could use any victorious distraction in these trying times. They’re back in the headlines for the wrong reasons after the release of Le’Veon Bell on Tuesday night, sinking their perpetual rebuild into new levels of woe.

In times of offensive trouble, attention almost always turns to the quarterback. Flacco acknowledged that role in his Wednesday statements.

“You just need to have plays build off of plays. You need to get some chunks here and there. Right now, we are just going the long hard way,” Flacco said. “It’s a good sign to have a long drive, because you know you’re obviously doing a lot of little things right, but it’s hard to do that consistently. And right now, that’s what we’re kind of forcing ourselves to do, is just be so perfect and as soon as one little thing gets messed up by us, or it goes wrong because there’s a good defense, we’re off the field.”

“I think that, you know, we need to try to get some more first downs in first and second down and then once we get in the red zone we really just have to finish, we have to get points.”

To Flacco’s point, the Jets reached the opposing 35-yard-line four times on last Sunday afternoon against Arizona, but emerged with only one touchdown, as the others ended in a Sam Ficken field goal and failed attempts on fourth down. New York lost 30-10 and fell to 0-5 on the season.

Reinforcements will slowly begin to trickle in for the Jets. Breshad Perriman is expected to play this week after suffering an ankle injury in Week 2’s game against San Francisco. Like Flacco, Perriman was a first-round pick of the Ravens and they spent several seasons together in Baltimore (2015-17).

“I think Breshad over the last couple years has gained a lot of confidence and he’s been playing really well when he’s healthy and he’s rolling,” Flacco said. “You know he’s a tough guy to cover. He can bring a lot of explosive plays to your offense, so it’ll be exciting to kind of get him back out there and it was exciting to see him back out there at practice today.”

Further good news came from the Jets in the form of an update on second-round pick Denzel Mims. The rookie receiver has dealt with injuries all season, but was recently cleared to return to practice alongside Arthur Maulet and fellow rookie Cameron Clark.

No matter the on-field activity, the main talking point throughout Sunday late afternoon will more than likely be Bell’s absence, even if it fully isn’t shown on the statsheet. Flacco, of course, is more than familiar with what will be missed in his departure, as the two were on opposite sides of one of the NFL’s most intense, continuous rivalries in the Ravens-Steelers’ battle for AFC North dominance.

But nonetheless expressed hope that an opportunity has arisen for younger players to take on a role, namely fourth-round rookie La’Mical Perine. The development of these young talents, with the help of some veteran leaders, could well give the Jets something to play for over these dire eleven weeks left on their docket.

“I think we got a really good room. I think we got, obviously in Frank (Gore), a Hall of Fame veteran, a really good young kid coming up (in Perine), I think those guys are going to step up and play really well.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills’ Week 5 contest moved to Tuesday night

The anticipated matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans will move to Tuesday night, pending further Tennessee testing.

Buffalo Bills fans will be waiting all day for Tuesday night this week.

The team confirmed on Thursday that their Week 5 tilt against the Tennessee Titans will be shifted from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday night. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET and will be nationally broadcast on CBS. Tom McCarthy and Jay Feely are expected to retain the call.

Buffalo (4-0) has been on standby in the wake of positive COVID-19 tests out of Tennessee, a number that moved up to 23 since September 24 this week. This Tuesday date hinges on whether more positive tests emerge prior to kickoff. The Titans (3-0) previously saw their Week 4 game against Pittsburgh rescheduled to October 25 in the wake of their positives.

This week’s situation with the Bills was made all the more precarious with the BIlls’ situation in Week 6, as they were slated to open the proceedings with a Thursday night match against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. If the Bills and Titans play on Tuesday, Buffalo’s visit to Arrowhead Stadium will be moved to Week 6’s Sunday slate at an unspecified time. Otherwise, it will retain its spot in Fox and NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football package.

Buffalo last had a game rescheduled in 2014, when a snowstorm moved a November tilt against the New York Jets from Sunday to Monday. Proceedings were also moved from Bills Stadium (then known as Ralph Wilson Stadium) to Ford Field in Detroit. The Bills won the game 38-3.

This anticipated matchup between unbeaten teams is one of two Week 5 games shifted in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks in the NFL. For the second straight week, the New England Patriots will partake in a Monday night doubleheader, as they’ll battle the Denver Broncos a day later than anticipated (5 p.m. ET, ESPN). That’ll be followed by the originally scheduled Monday night showing between the Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags