Injury to Geno Smith Raises Questions About Jets QB Situation
Yesterday, SQ’s Robert Hess and Bobby Eghbali reported that New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith would miss the next six to ten weeks as a result of a “sucker punch” at the hands of (former) teammate IK Enemkpali. Enemkpali, who was subsequently released, laid the punch following a previous on-field altercation between him and Smith.
As a Jets fan, this is certainly not the news I wanted to hear on any level. Despite the fact that Smith was slated to start in the Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns, he was also in the midst of a strong developmental period, as he had been having a great camp up until the injury. The Jets are still rostering veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, unproven rookies Bryce Petty (the 2015 4th round pick) and Jake Heaps, but none of these options are particularly viable going forward.
It is important to remember that the report suggests Smith will miss six to ten weeks, and the regular season does not begin for another five weeks. So while there is a chance Smith misses four or five weeks of action, there is also the prospect that he only misses one.
However, more significant than the games missed will be the potential halt in his development as a starting quarterback. With as many tough breaks as Smith has experienced in his young career, it is hard to imagine him coming off of the injury with seamless improvement. Not only will he miss the next two months or so with injury, but he will also need additional time to mold back into form and resurrect any gains he had made in camp. In the big picture, his injury isn’t all too detrimental to his play, but it looks like Geno Smith will have a tough road back.
Bryce Petty (left) and Jake Heaps (right) are the only other QBs on the Jets roster outside of Smith and Fitzpatrick
Luckily, Fitzpatrick is a formidable backup and should fill in serviceably, assuming that he wins the opening day nod at quarterback, as Petty will likely push him for the spot. However, this temporary situation still begs the question: what is the answer for the Jets at QB if not Geno Smith? The third-year signal caller out of West Virginia has had an up-and-down first few years, and while he has shown spurts of brilliance, the vast majority of his playing time has been disappointing. Fitzpatrick may be a quick fix given his familiarity with new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, but by no means is he the long-term solution. And while Petty was a steal in the fourth round, he needs time to develop into what Jets fans hope to be a successful quarterback. Otherwise, he will sputter into a roller coaster career similar to Smith.
All in all, this incident may open Jets fans’ eyes to a glaring issue on their team at quarterback. Despite all of the improvements made on the defensive end this offseason, the Jets will go as far as their offensive leader will take them, and eventually someone better than Geno Smith will have to be the guy to carry this team. The best case scenario for now is that Geno recovers quickly, misses a week or two of the regular season and Fitzpatrick fills in well enough to put Gang Green in position to win those games. However, this charade can only go on for so long. Eventually, GM Mike Maccagnan will have to lock up a true QB of the future.