Jets mulling read-option package for Smith
Even though the Tim Tebow project was a resounding failure last season, the New York Jets are considering a Tebow-like role for rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
Hoping to capitalize on Smith's athleticism, the Jets are open to using Smith in a specialized role -- read-option plays -- if he loses the quarterback competition to incumbent Mark Sanchez.
"I know what everybody is thinking," coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday at minicamp. "If we did that, it would be like, 'Oh, didn't we try that last year?' But certainly, that's a possibility."
Perhaps realizing he opened a can of worms, Ryan said it would be a leap to make assumptions, but the coach left no doubt he believes Smith can be a weapon in a read-option role.
"I think he's got the athleticism to do that," Ryan said. "They didn't run a whole lot of zone reads [at West Virginia], but he has the skill set to where there's no reason he shouldn't be able to do that.
"I think you have to be smart with what you ask your quarterback to do -- or you're going to need a whole bunch of them," he continued. "That's why I think people are going to start attacking quarterbacks. But running for first downs and touchdowns, that's how the league is going to progress to these things."
It didn't work last season with Tebow, who never found a niche on offense. After predicting big things for Tebow in the Wildcat, the Jets used him for only 76 snaps on offense. The Wildcat package was ineffective.
Tebow's role -- or lack of a role -- became an ongoing soap opera, with many speculating that he disrupted Sanchez whenever he came into the game.
Sanchez and Smith are battling in an open competition. Ryan won't name a starter until the preseason, adding that it's too soon to identify a front-runner. But the Smith package might be a way to get both quarterbacks into the game.
"I don't know what he timed in the 40," Ryan said of Smith, "but the guy can run. Clearly, he has good mobility."
Curiously, Smith wasn't an effective runner in college. He scrambled for 253 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per scramble in 2012, but the run wasn't a big part of the system for the Mountaineers. Smith attempted only 11 designed rushes and averaged 2.6 yards per rush on those carries, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Jets could decide to bring along Smith the way the San Francisco 49ers used Colin Kaepernick early last season. Before replacing the injured Alex Smith, Kaepernick was used for a handful of plays each week, mainly running the read-option. They unleashed him on the Jets in Week 4, and he rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown.
By the time he got into the starting lineup, Kaepernick at least had some game experience. Everybody knows the rest of the story. Of course, he was a second-year player; Smith will be a rookie in 2013.
Quarterbacks coach David Lee acknowledged that a Kaepernick-type role is a possibility, although he tried to temper expectations.
"Geno is fast -- he has good speed -- but he's not Kaepernick fast," Lee said. "That guy's a jet, he can really accelerate. Geno can run, but I wouldn't put him in the RG III speed or Kaepernick speed of last year."
Lee was a member of the Miami Dolphins' coaching staff in 2008, when he used the Wildcat and once deployed three quarterbacks in one quarter. So, no, he wouldn't be opposed to Smith spelling Sanchez.
"I think you could do it," Lee said. "It doesn't bother me."
Smith and Sanchez gave the politically correct answers, saying it would be a coach's decision and they'd do anything to help the team win. For Sanchez, it probably would dredge up bad memories from last season.
"Rex is the head coach," Sanchez said. "It's his call."
Smith has struggled with the new offense, according to Lee, who said the rookie's lack of familiarity with the West Coast system is evident on the practice field. Ultimately, the Jets could decide to start with Sanchez, sprinkling in Smith.
Smith made it clear that he believes he's a pocket passer, but he added, "I have the ability and athleticism to extend plays outside the pocket."
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