It has been eight years since Geno Smith was a regular starter in the NFL. After the New York Jets drafted Smith in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, he started all 16 games as a rookie and then 13 games in 2014.
Need some perspective on how much time has really passed?
Smith was named the Jets’ week one starter in 2014 after beating Michael Vick. After spending the last few years of his career as a backup, Vick retired in 2017.
As for Smith, this is a golden opportunity to prove he has what it takes to start in the NFL. The opportunity arose this offseason when veteran Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was traded to Denver, creating competition between Smith and Drew Lock, who came to Seattle as part of that trade. And with a solid and consistent performance during camp and the preseason, Smith earned the starting job.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and thankful,” Smith said. “I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me. That was my mindset from the beginning, getting ready to go out there and win games. This is the first step in that process, but it’s really about winning. None of this will matter if we don’t do it.” Let’s not go out there and win the games we’re supposed to win.”
Winning usually heals everything, something Smith struggled with early in his career. In fact, he went 12-18 in four seasons with the Jets. On top of that, Smith had to deal with the repercussions stemming from his infamous locker room incident in which he had his jaw broken with a punch. It’s debatable whether or not that incident directly affected Smith’s chances of landing a starting job, but he remained a backup for the past seven seasons.
“It means a lot,” Smith said. “I’m pretty sure it’s something I’ve been preparing for, and the reality is it’s just Step 1. It’s just the beginning. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to go out and win and play.” 17 games and more. For me, I am grateful. I’m thankful. I will forever be indebted to the Seattle Seahawks organization, but it’s time to get to work.”
Smith signed with Seattle in 2019, backed Wilson for three seasons and re-signed in April to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. He has a 13-21 career record as a starter, including going 1-2 last season while Wilson was out with a finger injury.
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Overall, Smith wasn’t terrible in 2021. He finished the season with five touchdowns and an interception, with a solid 103.0 passer rating, but the team was extremely run-heavy in that span. For example, in Smith’s first start in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Alex Collins charged through Seattle’s offense for 101 yards and a touchdown.
“In the games I played last year, the numbers speak for themselves,” Smith said. “The thing I showed the most and still try to do is make the right reads, have the right footwork, do the right running checks.” and make sure there are no negatives.
“I pride myself on making sure guys are in the right position and always being that coordinator on the field. I believe in my ability and I know I can make a lot of plays with my arms and legs. It’s all about moving the chains. and adding points.
Smith took the vast majority of first-team reps during the offseason program and training camp and then started all three preseason games. Lock was set to start the second preseason game until he tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him away from the team. Any time lost during an open contest is a handicap that appears to be a contributing factor in Lock losing the quarterback contest.
Whether or not Smith keeps the initial job or if Lock starts at some point remains to be seen. We’ll soon find out, though, when Seattle’s first regular-season game kicks off on September 12.
You can follow Kevin Tame Jr on Twitter at @Kevin_Tame
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