It may only be temporary, but the Geno Smith era is set to begin in New York on Sunday afternoon. They Jets will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season, and the rookie from West Virginia will get the call under center.
Smith didn’t exactly earn the starting job because of his stellar preseason performance. Head coach Rex Ryan was forced to insert the quarterback into the lineup after Mark Sanchez injured his shoulder in the third exhibition game. The two had been battling for the No.1 spot on the depth chart, until Smith won the competition by default.
Now, the second-round draft pick will get a chance to prove he’s the Jets quarterback of the future, or at least their best option right now. Sanchez was one of the worst signal callers in the NFL last year, and it might not take much for Smith to convince Ryan, general manager John Idzik and the rest of the organization. Despite his shaky play in the preseason, Ryan has been very supportive of the rookie.
"We realize that a rookie quarterback and all that, that's certainly a challenge," Ryan said. "I think our guys are ready to rally behind Geno, and the big thing we've told Geno is, 'You just have to be part of the solution.'"
Smith hasn’t exactly been put in the best position to succeed. He enters the opener with limited weapons at his disposal. If Santonio Holmes plays at all, it will be in a limited capacity, leaving unproven wide receivers Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill as his top options. Bilial Powell will start at running back after accumulating just 458 yards on the ground in his two years in the league.
A year ago, Smith might have had a better chance to succeed in his debut. In 2012, the Buccaneers had the worst pass defense in the NFL. The unit, however, was revamped in the offseason, led by the acquisition of the Jets best player. Tampa Bay traded for Darrelle Revis, who’s set to take the field for the first time since tearing his ACL. The cornerback could have an advantage by playing against his former team.
"I know these guys. I played against them every day in practice. So I've got a bunch of tips on those guys," Revis said. "And the good thing about it, I've been sharing them in our secondary. ... We will come into this game real comfortable. We really will, just from the experience I had there and knowing these guys."
On offense, Josh Freeman will be forced to start the season without his top offensive lineman. Guard Carl Nicks did not make the trip to MetLife Stadium because of a staph infection. Freeman will have a tougher time against a Jets defensive line that looks to be improved, after adding No.13 overall pick Sheldon Richardson in the draft.
The contest is set to begin at 1 p.m. It will be broadcast on FOX, which can be seen by 19 percent of the nation, according to Neil Best of Newsday. The rest of the country can watch a live stream online with a subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket Max.
Betting Odds: Tampa Bay-3.5, 40
Prediction: It was clear in the preseason that Smith is not ready to be a starter in the NFL. Starting his career against a team with the best cornerback in the league does not bode well for him. New York will try to keep the game a low scoring affair, but the Bucs have enough weapons in Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson to put some points on the board. Multiple turnovers might be in Smith’s immediate future.
Final Predicted Score: Tampa Bay 23, New York 6