METAIRIE, La. -- New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith ranks second in the NFL in turnovers this year (13 interceptions and three lost fumbles), and he has thrown two picks that have been returned for touchdowns over the past two weeks.
But the New Orleans Saints aren’t exactly licking their chops heading into Sunday’s matchup at New York. What has stood out to them most while studying up on Smith is that he has been poised under pressure.
Smith has led the Jets (4-4) on four game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime this year – the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. According to Elias, he’s only the fourth quarterback with a game-winning drive in each of his first four wins since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger (joining Troy Aikman, Lynn Dickey and Bruce Gradkowski).
Here’s what the Saints have been saying about Smith this week:
Coach Sean Payton: “Well the one impressive statistic is his finishes. He’s had four of these come from behind or game-winning drives. I think for a young quarterback, that’s a big thing to build on. He has a strong arm, and you can see that confidence in his teammates. I think you can see on film when they are late in games and it is close, he has been able to deliver there. And I think that is a pretty good trait. … I think like any young quarterback there is a growth spurt that you go through, highs and lows. [But] I think that there have been a lot of things that I’ve seen that you get excited about.”
Rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro (who faced Smith once in college last year): “He’s a good dude, man, great competitor. I was telling guys during the draft process that I thought he was a great competitor and I that I thought he would do well in the league. … He has a lot of pluses. He can make all the throws, he’s a competitor, he’s smart. He’s a lot more athletic than people give him credit for. I think he wants to be known as a pocket passer, but he can run the ball, too. He’s a young quarterback, just like I’m a young safety. You’re going to make some mental errors, you’re not going to be as crisp as a veteran. But other than that I see a lot of great qualities in him.”
Quarterback Drew Brees: “I think he’s handled himself very well. All their wins have been come-from-behind victories in which he’s orchestrated an impressive fourth-quarter drive. Their team is making plays around him. I think he’s done very, very well. Just knowing all the things that go with playing quarterback in this league, and as a rookie, in that big market, obviously high expectations and the circumstances surrounding him and getting the starting job, I think he’s done very well.”
Safety Malcolm Jenkins: “I think the good thing is he’s been in pressure situations. He’s had the ball late in his hands late in the game and needing to make a play, and he’s made those plays quite often this year. They’ve beaten some good teams really because of his play late in the game. So I think that’s one thing that we can’t take lightly, is that he doesn’t really fold under pressure. His team believes in him. He will do a couple rookie mistakes here and there, like last week threw a couple bad interceptions (in a 49-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals). But I’m sure they’ll get those cleaned up. You can tell they’re trying to develop him as a quarterback. Each week he’s adding a little more progression to his game.”