What to Know About Geno
Of the 11 quarterbacks drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft, only three started a game last year: E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon. With Josh McCown installed as the starter (for now) in Tampa, leaving only Manuel and Smith as the returning starters for their teams.
The Packers will see Manuel in Buffalo on December 14th, but they get Smith and his New York Jets this week. Here's what you need to know.
Eugene Cyril Smith III (I'd probably go by Geno, too) played in 44 games with the West Virginia Mountaineers in college, starting every game from his sophomore year on and racking up nearly 12,000 passing yards and 98 touchdowns.
Billed as solid (but unspectacular), Smith was knocked a bit for his spread offense background in college. Scouts worried a bit about his accuracy from a traditional dropback, and in large part those fears were realized last year: he only completed about 56% of his passes on the season.
Smith was also eviscerated by serial pot-stirrer Nolan Nawrocki, formerly of Pro Football Weekly, who declared Smith was "not a student of the game," "does not command respect from teammates and cannot inspire," is "not committed or focused" and "cannot handle hard coaching" among other things.
Of course, exactly zero of those claims were independently verifiable outside of those ever-present "anonymous sources," but Nawrocki cannon-balled into the spotlight as he seems to do everysingleyear around draft time. A cynical person would wonder if Nawrocki just enjoys feeling the hate from everyone, but we're here to talk about Geno Smith.
The scouts without an axe to grind pegged Smith as a possible first round pick, likely slated to come off the board in the 20's. CBS ranked him as their number one quarterback, but also had him going 21st overall, which says as much about the weak quarterback class as it did for Smith's chances in the NFL.
Smith has good arm strength and is an excellent athlete. I think you could compare him (athletically) to a slightly faster Aaron Rodgers, right down to the unique ability to be a good runner without being a scrambling quarterback. Like Rodgers, Smith has the speed to make plays with his feet, but he knows how to use it. He doesn't rely on his athleticism. It's just a tool in his arsenal.
Like just about every young quarterback, though, there are flaws in his game. Smith has had problems with pressure dating back to his college days, and dealing with the blitz was one of his main bugaboos in 2013.
Smith was pressured on 217 of his 517 dropbacks in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus. On those "pressured" dropbacks, he was abysmal, piling up a passer rating of just 42.6, or a PFF rating of -15.0. For comparison's sake, fellow rookie E.J. Manuel was pressured on 114 of his 358 dropbacks, and he managed a passer rating of 60.6 and a PFF rating of -9.9. Still not stellar, but miles ahead of Smith.
However, it's important to note that while Manuel's numbers against pressure were better, Smith's overall numbers improved as the season went on. He finished in the green in his last two starts, according to Pro Football Focus, posting a much-improved 71.1 passer rating and a .7 PFF rating against Cleveland in Week 16, and an even better 77.1 passer rating/ 1.5 PFF rating against Miami in Week 17. Smith can get it done.
That said, the Packers' ultimate solution for success against Smith will be pressure, and that's one of the areas they struggled mightily against Seattle.
Only Josh Boyd and Nick Perry graded out on the positive end last week, and although the secondary was mostly solid, the Packers will need to be much better this week to make Smith pay. Without a pass rush to bother him, even Geno Smith might be a headache for the Packers.