Monday, September 9, 2013
Upon Further Review: Jets Week 1
By Rich Cimini
An examination of four hot issues from the Jets' 18-17 win over the Bucs:
Geno Smith helped lead the Jets to a victory in his first NFL start.
1. Geno wins quarterback competition: Rex Ryan might not say it publicly, but rookie Geno Smith has locked up the charade that was billed as a quarterback competition. Smith's winning performance, coupled with media reports that Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury is worse than the team was letting on (gee, what a shock), makes this a no-brainer. They will ride Smith indefinitely, hoping the rest of the team can play well enough to overcome his growing pains. He got off to a shaky start, committing two turnovers and taking an unnecessary sack in the first half, but the kid kept it together and played well in the fourth quarter. In fact, he completed 7 of 11 passes for 83 yards in the fourth, plus his 10-yard scramble that ended with a late-hit penalty on the Bucs, which set up the Jets' game-winning field goal. Smith became the first quarterback drafted in the second round or later to throw for 250-plus yards in a Week 1 victory since the 1970 merger.
2. Running on empty: If the Jets don't rediscover their once-formidable ground game, Smith doesn't stand a chance. Smith was the leading rusher (47 yards), and that should tell you everything you need to know. But we'll tell you more, of course. Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory combined for 44 yards on 22 carries, a 2.0-yard average. The Bucs owned the league's top-ranked rush defense last season, but that's no excuse for a 2.0 average. The Jets tried to mix it up, using their Wildcat package. That was a bust, too, as they managed only 13 yards on five Wildcat plays -- shades of last season with Tim Tebow. Ivory looked positively ordinary in his Jets debut, although he didn't get much help from the line. Clearly, they need Mike Goodson (suspended), who has the speed to threaten the perimeter. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg actually ran a toss sweep to WR Jeremy Kerley on a third-and-1, showing a lack of confidence in his backs.
3. Special K: GM John Idzik took some heat for letting TE Dustin Keller bolt as a free agent. Come to think of it, he let pretty much everyone bolt. For now, anyway, the Jets can feel good about the tight end position, thanks to a strong debut by Kellen Winslow. He's 30 years old and playing on a bad knee, but he looked frisky against one of his former teams, leading the Jets with seven catches for 79 yards. Clearly, he and Smith already have developed some chemistry. They connected seven times on eight targets, and that's important because a young quarterback's best friend is a crafty tight end who can get open in the middle of the field. Winslow ran a nice pivot route on his 7-yard touchdown catch, outfoxing the Bucs' secondary. The question with Winslow is durability. He played 63 percent of the offensive snaps, so it'll be interesting to see how his body responds on a short week.
4. Sharpening the edges: The Bucs' Doug Martin is the kind of running back who has caused problems for the Jets in recent years, especially as their defense grew older in 2011 and 2012. He's the type of dual threat who can wreak havoc in space, but he was held to 67 yards from scrimmage. The Jets made changes in the front seven, integrating LB DeMario Davis and drafting DT Sheldon Richardson -- two players with above-average speed for their positions. The improved athleticism was evident Sunday, as the Jets swarmed the line of scrimmage. DE Muhammad Wilkerson, fast becoming one of the top defensive linemen in the league, also played well. They were helped by the Bucs' coaching staff, whose play calling showed no creativity whatsoever.