FOXBOROUGH — Four years ago, the Patriots lost the second game of the season to the Jets and a rookie quarterback they were expected to devour — Mark Sanchez. That season improbably ended with Sanchez leading the Jets to the first of two straight AFC title games, but after two more non-playoff seasons, the Jets are starting over now with rookie QB Geno Smith.
The oddsmakers say he and the Jets have little chance of leaving Gillette Stadium tonight with a victory over New England, but after watching tape of Smith leading the Jets to a last-second win over Tampa Bay in his debut, the Pats clearly respect him.
Kyle Arrington, a reserve cornerback, had a one-word response when asked to describe Smith. “Poise,” Arrington said. “He doesn’t play like a rookie. They do multiple formations — run Wildcat, spread the ball, run empty — and they’re effective doing it.”
Just as the Jets did with Sanchez, they are asking Smith to limit turnovers and manage the game. But where Sanchez could rely on one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks, these Jets pose different problems with new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s West Coast offense and Smith’s threat to run.
“It’s different from what we’ve seen in previous times we’ve played them,” Arrington said. “It’s like starting from scratch.”
Pats safety Devin McCourty said the Jets haven’t restricted Smith as much as expected. “They’re asking him to go out there and play football, and that’s what he’s doing,” McCourty said. “We can’t approach this game thinking we’re playing a team that’s worried about their rookie quarterback and is trying to scale things down.”
In their 18-17 win over Tampa Bay, Smith led the Jets with 47 yards rushing thanks to his scrambling style. Arrington said confusion had something to do with it, but so did instinct.