By Gregory Hunt
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith played so well in his NFL debut on Sunday. After all, a number of rookie quarterbacks in recent years, including Robert Griffin III in Washington, Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Cam Newton in Carolina, have experienced instant success in the NFL. But to be fair, Smith had the privilege of playing against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that was ranked dead last in the league against the pass last year, so facing the New England Patriots on Tuesday will present a tougher challenge.
The Jets enter Week Two with a 1-0 record, courtesy of an 18-17 win on Sunday at home against Tampa Bay. New York’s rivalry against New England dates back to 1960, the inaugural year of the American Football League when the teams were known as the New York Titans and the Boston Patriots. The Jets trail the all-time series 52-55-1 (including playoffs) and enter this contest with a three-game losing streak against the Pats. New York head coach Rex Ryan is 2-6 in the regular season against the Patriots, but he won his only postseason meeting, a 28-21 victory at Gillette Stadium in the 2010 Divisional Playoffs.
Jets on Offense
Against Tampa Bay, Smith completed 63.2 percent of his passes (24-of-38) for 256 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Although Smith doesn’t have the breakaway speed of a quarterback like San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, he is still pretty mobile, so he is currently the team’s leading rusher with 47 yards on six carries.
Smith’s favorite target is Kellen Winslow Jr., and according to a story in Monday’s USA Today, the two of them are developing a special bond. Smith completed a key 25-yard pass to Winslow during the winning drive of Sunday’s game, but outside of this tandem, the Jets don’t appear to have many weapons at either running back or receiver, so don’t expect the team to match the 304 yards of total offense they gained against Tampa Bay.
Jets on Defense
As a former defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens (2005-2008), Ryan is a defensive-minded coach, so opponents can always expect this side of the ball to be his team’s strength. New York’s 6-10 record in 2012 belied the fact that the team was 8th in the league in total defense, however, their defensive unit did not force a lot of turnovers. The Jets had only 23 takeaways last year (New England’s defensive unit had 41). The three turnovers in Week One notwithstanding, New England generally does not turn over the ball very often, so even if the Patriots have difficulty advancing the ball, don’t expect the Jets to get many opportunities for short drives.
Expect the Patriots to come out of this game with a 2-0 record, but the closeness of the final score will depend on the efficiency of New England’s running game. Running back Shane Vereen, who had an outstanding game in a Week One 23-21 victory over the Buffalo Bills, will miss this week’s game after breaking a bone in his wrist. If Stevan Ridley remains in head coach Bill Belichick’s doghouse this week due to a pair of fumbles against Buffalo (even if only one of them counted), then expect LeGarrette Blount to get the bulk of the carries against the Jets. If the running game holds up its end of the bargain, then that should create more opportunities for rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins to show what he can do catching the ball.
Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.