Smith gives Jets added dimensions
January, 7, 2010
By Tim Graham | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Darron CummingsWide receiver Brad Smith brings added versatility to the New York Jets' offense.Scour the New York Jets' depth chart and you'll find Brad Smith tucked away as a backup receiver.
He's not easy to spot there. On the field, however, he could be anywhere.
As if the Cincinnati Bengals didn't have enough of a migraine, trying to pull off a 38-point swing in the six days between getting slobberknocked at the Meadowlands and Saturday's rematch with the Jets in the first round of the playoffs, they'll have to dedicate a nice chunk of their short week to solving a new problem.
Where will Smith be, and what will he do when we spot him?
In a must-win game for the Jets on Sunday night, Smith shocked the Bengals. He lined up at quarterback, his position at the University of Missouri, and took off like a whippet -- four times for a career-high 92 yards and a touchdown.
Smith darted 57 yards out of the shotgun to set up a 1-yard Thomas Jones touchdown run on the opening drive and kept an option around the right end for a 32-yard touchdown in the second quarter. A week earlier, he returned a kickoff 106 yards to help the Jets beat the Indianapolis Colts and remain alive for the postseason.
When the Jets couldn't have been more desperate for victories, Smith might have been the MVP each game.
"He can run. He can throw. He can catch. He plays special teams. He can tackle," Jones said. "He is, to me, one of the best all-purpose guys in the league. I think he's very underrated.
"With a guy like Brad Smith in the game, it keeps the defense off balance. They're not sure of what he is going to do."
Smith is in his fourth NFL season but never made an extended impact. He has come through with plays here and there, but his role always remained on the periphery. He has started only 15 of his 60 games. His career stats would leave an awful lot of white space on the back of his football card.
Now he's a not-so-secret weapon, thanks to his performance Sunday night. He won't sneak up on the Bengals, but his mere threat could be enough to raise Marvin Lewis' stress level.
"It is huge," Jets right guard Brandon Moore said. "It is coming on at the right time. Coaches did a great job with that. He's an explosive player.
"He was down on the depth chart a bit in the beginning and kind of came up a little bit and went down a little bit and now he's really coming on strong. He just put his head down and went to work and I'm really happy for him."
It would seem like a brilliant coaching strategy for Rex Ryan to rummage through his fanny pack and pull out Smith at such an opportune juncture.
But Smith emergence's was born of necessity more than ingenuity. Remember how the Jets openly scoffed at the Wildcat offense after the Miami Dolphins used it to fillet them in Week 5?
"I can't respect that stuff, all that Wildcat," Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace said in the losers' locker room. "We're in the NFL. Don't come here with that nonsense."
Nonsense works sometimes.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer had to conjure creative ways to divert the defense's attention from running backs Jones and Shonn Greene after Leon Washington, who handled a lot of New York's gadget deployments, suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 8. At the time, Smith was nursing a quadriceps injury.
The need for a resourceful counterbalance increased as it became frustratingly clear rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez couldn't turn the passing game into a deciding factor.
New York Daily News beat reporter Rich Cimini has noted the Jets have run 11 direct-snap plays over the past two games. They ran 16 such plays through their first 14 games.
"I think it adds another dimension," Smith said. "It makes [the defense] have to play things a little bit more honest when you can throw out of it. You can do all kind of creative things out of that formation and personnel package. With any quarterback that's mobile and can do some different things, it makes the defense think a lot."
Smith is about as versatile as they come. He was the first to pass for 8,000 yards and rush for 4,000 in a college career. Ryan drew comparisons to Michael Vick and Steve Young, and declared Smith "was Tim Tebow and all those other guys before any of them."
Ryan, whether he meant it or was engaging in gamesmanship, suggested the Jets have all sorts of Smith possibilities they haven't unveiled.
"As far as anybody knows," Ryan said with a smile, "we've got several pass plays in there."
But Smith wasn't joking when he said: "There's still a lot more yards and points that are still out there for us."
Just what the Bengals wanted to hear.