Analyzing New York Jets' rookies in week one
With Geno Smith, Dee Milliner, Sheldon Richardson and Tommy Bohanon all playing vital roles on their NFL regular season debuts, the Jets ran out 18-17 winners thanks to a gutsy performance mixed in with some good fortune at MetLife Stadium.
It was certainly a day where the Jets showed plenty of promise – with the rookie group in particular proving impressive as a group.
Of course, all eyes were on second-round selection Geno Smith as he started in the all-important QB role.
As expected, the former West Virginia star did make some rookie errors – most notably a fumble on his own five yard line after receiving minimal protection from his offensive line and an ugly overthrow aiming for Chris Ivory that led to an interception.
Yet such mental lapses were always to be expected from the rookie, and after both turnovers occurred in the first half he showed excellent maturity to avoid similar mistakes in the second half.
Overall Smith appeared comfortable in the pocket despite receiving inconsistent protection. When he did find himself put on the deck he simply shrugged off the blows and continued as normal.
His character and determination epitomised the Jets, as they silenced their critics with an opening day win thanks to a last gasp drive from Smith to reach field goal territory.
Some neat throwing from Smith ensured the offense continued ticking over, whilst his decision making was a major bonus.
Unlike Mark Sanchez, Geno appeared to have a good sense of when to throw the ball away plus his ability to buy himself time with smart pocket presence certainly bodes well for the future.
He recorded 256 passing yards, completing 24-of-38 attempts and combining with tight end Kellen Winslow Jr for a touchdown. He also showed his credentials on the ground – leading the Jets in rushing yards with 47 yards from six carries when the passing option was not available. It is clear Smith has a lot of work still to do, but the early signs appear promising.
The only other rookie starting on offense – full-back Tommy Bohanon – enjoyed a solid debut, with just one reception for 21 yards after a strong carry.
He proved a solid blocker and a versatile player as he aims to establish himself in the NFL after being picked up by the Jets in the seventh round of this years’ draft.
Whilst the offense showed plenty of promise, it was the Jets defense that ultimately won them the game, with their defensive line in particular enjoying an excellent day.
That phenomenal defensive line included first round draft pick Sheldon Richardson at defensive end as he enjoyed a debut to remember.
Picked due to his athleticism and physicality, Richardson demonstrated his high motor and incredible intensity to end the day with seven tackles and a sack as the three-man front line of Richardson, Mohammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison gave the Buccaneers headaches all afternoon.
With the Missouri man instantly proving his NFL credentials, the Jets pressured Josh Freeman and helped sniff out the Tampa Bay run game in order to give Geno Smith and his offense a shot at victory which they ultimately took.
Perhaps the most underwhelming of the Jets rookies was number nine selection overall Dee Milliner, as the cornerback from Alabama struggled to provide consistent coverage on his first start.
After a pre-season interrupted by niggling injuries, Milliner suffered a rough start to his career as he gave up some big plays – particularly when put up against Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams in the early exchanges.
However, Milliner regrouped to show notable improvement as the game went on, and his performance is definitely no cause of concern.
He was not the only Jets cornerback to give up big plays, whilst he is most certainly not the first rookie CB to struggle on his debut.
Taking on some talented Tampa Bay receivers was sure to be a steep learning curve, yet he showed some neat footwork to stay tight to his receivers.
His awareness could be questioned at times as he occasionally failed to turn his head as passes came his way, but the key will be to see how he fares against New England next week after he has dissected his performance.
Overall it was an extremely encouraging day for the New York Jets from a rookie perspective. After some poor drafting in recent years it was vital for the new GM, John Idzik, to get this year right.
It may be early days but the first signs look extremely promising for the Jets as they began the rebuilding process with a confidence-boosting victory.