By Steve Silverman
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Do the Jets know what they have in Geno Smith?
The answer to that question is no, but they will begin to get some real answers on Friday night when the Jets face the Detroit Lions in the first preseason game of the year. Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg will at least get a few answers from his performance and demeanor.
Here’s what they are hoping to see: They want Smith to charge into the Jets’ huddle and take command. He has to show that he can be a leader and he can carry himself like a professional quarterback and call plays decisively.
That means he must understand everything he is supposed to do, but more importantly, understand what every Jets offensive player must do as well. That’s what good quarterbacks bring with them when they walk on the field.
It’s not enough to know your own job. You must have a complete understanding of what everyone’s responsibility is if you have any hope of consistent effectiveness.
And that’s not enough, either. You have to understand what the defense is going to do and how they are going to try to shut you down.
When you are a veteran quarterback like Tom Brady, it’s relatively easy and straightforward. But when you are a rookie quarterback like Smith, it’s much more difficult.
But it’s not impossible. Last year, rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck all found a way to learn all of these aspects of the game. All were gifted physically — especially RGIII and Luck — but that’s not why they were successful. They all knew what they were doing.
All three gave indications early in the preseason that they would be able to handle the responsibility of starting at quarterback. It wasn’t that they didn’t make mistakes. It was that they grew each day and projected confidence.
The Jets, of course, desperately need Smith to follow the lead of Wilson, RGIII and Luck. If he does that, he will provide them with a real quarterback option.
If he doesn’t, the Jets are in big trouble. No matter what Ryan tells reporters who cover the team, the Jets cannot have any confidence in Mark Sanchez. Unless Mornhinweg is a true miracle worker, there is no way they can go into battle and believe they can be a competitive team if Sanchez lines up under center.
He is a known commodity and he has too many flaws. He may know what he is supposed to do at quarterback, but he has not always been on the same page as his teammates when it comes to understanding their assignments.
Sanchez has struggled badly when it comes to reading defenses, coverages and understanding what the defense is going to do. Opponents have been able to take advantage of this deficiency, and it’s a big part of the reason why Sanchez has been so ineffective.
That’s why this first preseason game has importance to the Jets. The heat of the battle will bring out the competitor in Smith. He can show right away if he can handle the mental aspects of the job.
The Jets’ coaching staff knows that Sanchez has not been able to show that he has the moxie to come into the huddle and play like he is prepared to be the best player on the field. That’s not going to change.
Smith has a clean slate, and he is going to start making his legacy by the way he comports himself on the field.
The old days are gone. In generations past, a legitimate quarterback prospect would have a minimum of two years to get prepared for starting in the NFL. That’s no longer the case. Quarterbacks come into the league much better prepared.
The clock starts ticking right away, and Smith needs to show he has the tools to play right away. Perfection is not needed. Command and presence are required from day one.
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