Sunday’s game against the New York Jets could not be more important for the Baltimore Ravens.
Sitting at 3-3, the team desperately needs to get above .500 in order to keep pace with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will be without Ben Roethlisberger for roughly the next month, per most reports.
Falling to 3-4 heading into the bye week would just dig the hole from which they need to climb out even deeper, especially with an early-November matchup against the Steelers looming (hey, if the Ravens can lose to Charlie Batch at home, they can surely find a way to lose to Landry Jones).
Luckily for Baltimore, despite a slew of injuries, Sunday’s game will likely be the easiest road game remaining on the schedule, as the Jets are 1-5 with hardly any signs of trending upward. One of the reasons for a lack of confidence in the Jets to turn things around? Newly-announced starting quarterback Geno Smith.
After a putrid six-game performance by Ryan Fitzpatrick (11 interceptions), the Jets have turned to an even worse option in Smith. The fourth-year quarterback came on in relief for Fitzpatrick on Monday night in Arizona, only to fumble the ball and throw an interception in the same drive.
Entering Sunday’s game with an abysmal career completion percentage of 57.9, Smith will be about as easy of a test as the banged-up Ravens defense can get. We’re talking about a quarterback who has more career interceptions (36) than games played (32).
Let’s take a look at why Smith could not be much easier of an opponent for Baltimore’s defense to face.
Against the Arizona Cardinals, Smith looked lost (he only played in one game in 2015 and this was his first action of the 2016 season). Thanks to poor pocket presence and erratic decisions, Smith lasted just one measly drive before the Jets coaching staff sent Fitzpatrick back on the field.
On Smith’s interception, he drops back with a manageable pocket.
At the first sign of pressure, Smith instantly darts toward the outside, failing to either step up in the pocket or wait an extra half-second.
This leads to him rolling out and throwing on the run, severely off-balance. Overreacting to the pressure forces Smith to get rid of the ball sooner than expected.
The end result is a textbook interception for the defense. Smith’s combination of throwing on the run and average arm strength is a recipe for failure.
During the play above, Smith clearly rushes to judgement too soon and he deals with the consequences.
Earlier in the drive, Smith does the exact opposite of rushing to judgment, almost leading to a turnover.
With a clean pocket, Smith takes his time to let the play develop.
As he continues to sift through his options, the pass rush from the right side of the offensive line closes in, and Smith fails to ever recognize the incoming defender.
The pass rusher makes contact with Smith just as he gets ready to release the ball, and Smith’s failed pocket presence leads to a fumble, recovered by the Jets.
The type of play above is as straight-forward as it gets when it comes to quarterbacks failing to sense pressure.
During another play in the drive, Smith again has spotty decision-making.
In the pocket with plenty of protection, Smith eyes up a receiver running across the middle. At this point in the play, this should be an easy pitch-and-catch for the quarterback.
Smith, however, decides to tuck and run with the ball, and while he initially seems to have open field ahead, the end result is only a two-yard gain.
Granted, Smith came off the bench in relief late in the game, but the scenarios above are nothing new for the quarterback. With a short week to prepare for a Ravens defense that has defended the passing game well this season (outside of last Sunday’s failed attempt to even get a hand on Odell Beckham Jr. once Jimmy Smith exited), it is hard to envision Smith having much success.
The Ravens caught the Jets at the perfect time. Smith is essentially just a placeholder at quarterback until the coaching staff figures out what to do with the other three quarterbacks on the roster, and that bodes well for a Ravens secondary looking to get back on track.