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Friday, October 25, 2013
Geno Smith's early strides impress Bengals

By Coley Harvey

CINCINNATI -- Want to know how good New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith has been this season? Just consider the following statistic.

The four game-winning drives he has led so far this season make him just the fourth quarterback since the 1970 league merger to earn his first four career wins via that method.

Sure, the Jets' fourth-ranked defense had something to do with holding firm in some of the late-game scenarios that put Smith in position to lead those drives. And yes, kicker Nick Folk's three field goals at the end of regulation or in overtime ultimately won three of those contests. But the fact remains: the young signal-caller has been pretty good.

Geno Smith
"Geno's done well," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said of the Jets' rookie quarterback.
The Cincinnati Bengals certainly think so, and they are taking quite seriously his visit to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.

"Geno's done well," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "They've done a fine job of building their offensive team around him and with what they're doing schematically with involving the dropbacks that they do, the play-action dropbacks, the nakeds [bootlegs], the screens ... and then to the read-option type of thing that he's running, there's a lot of scheme."

From Lewis' out-of-town perch, Smith's work with that scheme has been worthy of recognition.

"He's doing a good job of managing it," Lewis said. "He's played well efficiently and they're winning the football game."

As one would expect, Smith has performed much better in wins than he has in losses this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he is completing 60.8 percent of his passes and has thrown seven touchdowns in the Jets' four wins. He's also run the ball better in those games, gaining an average 6 yards per carry. In New York's three losses, on the other hand, Smith is completing 55.3 percent of his passes, has thrown seven interceptions versus one touchdown and is running for 3.6 yards per carry.

His average QBR in his wins (60.9) is more than 50 points higher than his average QBR in losses (9.7).

The only apparent problem for Smith so far in his career is one that happens to all young quarterbacks: he lacks consistency.

"For a quarterback, there's only a few guys considered the greatest guys to play the game, and it's because they were able to string these good games back-to-back-to-back," said the Bengals' own consistency-seeking passer, Andy Dalton. "That's what everybody is striving for. It's hard to do, but you've got to be able to get your team going and prepare each week and go out and play your best and hopefully it shows in the game."

After turning in a rather poor outing against Cleveland four weeks ago, Dalton has hit a stride of sorts, helping the Bengals to three straight wins. Across the last two weeks, he has thrown for more than 700 yards and six touchdowns. It appears he may have once and for all found that high level of play that can be so elusive for quarterbacks.

Smith believes that finding consistency is the natural next step in his evolution.

"I've challenged myself to be consistent, and that's also in my decision-making; being a consistent decision-maker on every single down," Smith said in a conference call with Cincinnati media this week.

Aside from Smith's penchant for throwing interceptions in losses, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer sees few flaws in Smith's decision-making so far.

"Obviously he's a young guy that's maturing, but I feel like he's gotten better in the last few weeks," Zimmer said. "He's got an excellent arm. ... He's got some running ability. He's starting to scramble a little more than he was earlier in the year. He's a strong runner and he's got good speed because he's a good runner. So all of those things become issues."