CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thrust into the year-round circus that is the New York Jets, Geno Smith's first NFL season was destined to be somewhere between pothole-filled and catastrophic.
With nine sacks and six interceptions, the former West Virginia star quarterback is indeed having a bumpy ride. But he is 2-1 as a starter, two wins better than many observers had feared.
He rallied his team to a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener, and downed the Buffalo Bills last weekend with a 69-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the fourth quarter. Earlier, he picked up his first rushing touchdown and hooked up with Stephen Hill for a 51-yard score.
He outdueled Buffalo's E.J. Manuel, the quarterback taken 23 spots earlier in the NFL draft.
Two weeks earlier, he beat the Buccaneers on a late drive for a field goal, drawing a critical personal foul after running out of bounds.
He has much to learn, but odds are he remains in charge if/when Mark Sanchez returns from his shoulder injury. He has impressed many in New York with his moxie, if nothing else.
The headline on ESPN.com New York said it all: "Geno Smith is one fearless rookie; First-year starter showed guts to win a game he would've been allowed to lose."
Smith was 16 of 29 for 331 yards and those two long touchdowns, but he suffered two picks. For the first time, he was not sacked, and had a respectable quarterback rating of 89.9.
For the season, his QB rating is a soft 65.0, partly due to his 53.9 percent completion mark and three touchdowns vs. those six picks. One impressive stat: In his last two games, Smith has had two straight games of four completions of 20 yards or more. (Sanchez has never done that in two straight games.)
Smith is one of 26 players in the NFL with connections to the state of West Virginia - 16 from WVU, nine from Marshall and one from Shepherd.
The rundown, in order of experience:Adam "Pacman" Jones, Bengals CB, seventh season, WVU: He just completed his first 16-game season last year, but has recently made the headlines for the wrong reason - he was cited for disorderly conduct for berating a police officer who was arresting a friend for DUI.
Career stats: 71 games, 49 starts, 240 tackles, five interceptions, one TD.Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts RB, seventh season, Marshall: After the Giants cleaned house he latched on with the Colts, but his starting role seems to be temporary. The Colts didn't trade a first-round pick for Trent Richardson to make him a spectator. And this weekend, Bradshaw is sidelined with a neck injury.
Career stats: 87 games, 962 rushes, 4,418 yards, 34 TDs; 139 receptions, 1,129 yards, three TDs; 77 kickoff returns, 23.2 average; eight punt returns, 7.8 average; 35 tackles.Doug Legursky, Bills G, fifth season, Marshall: Listed as second string behind Colin Brown, he has yet to hit the field with his new team following a knee injury in the team's third preseason game.
Career stats: 50 games, 17 starts, all with Pittsburgh.Pat McAfee, Colts P, fifth season, WVU: His gross average has been 46 yards plus since 2011, with his net 39 plus in the same period. He likes kicking in that dome, right?
Career stats: 301 attempts, 13,701 yards (45.5 average), 38.7 net average.Ryan Mundy, Giants S, fifth year, WVU: He left as part of the Steelers' turnover, and is starting regularly now (of course his new team has the same record as his old team). Owns a 91-yard interception return that did not score.
Career stats: 67 games, eight starts, 153 tackles, two interceptions.Darius Reynaud, Titans RB, fifth season, WVU: Known much more as a kick returner - he had a 105-yard TD last year - he did get some work in the backfield. This year, not so much. Career stats: 42 games, 16 rushes, 33 yards; five receptions, 35 yards; 91 kickoff returns, 22.3 average, one TD; 95 punt returns, 9.8 average, two TDs; two tackles.C.J. Spillman, 49ers S, fifth year, Marshall: Former MU coach Bob Pruett often preached special teams as a way to make it to the NFL. Just ask this guy, who excels at it. Career stats: 65 games, 57 tackles.Ellis Lankster, Jets CB, fourth season, WVU: Played 15 games last season, starting one and getting his first interceptions. Career stats: 45 games, one start, 55 tackles, two interceptions.Albert McClellan, Ravens LB, third season, Marshall: Hasn't started this season after 11 starts last year, but nobody can take away that Super Bowl ring. Career stats: 33 games, 12 starts, 71 tackles, one forced fumble.Chris Neild, Redskins NT, third season, WVU: Still fighting for playing time, though he did play all 16 games a year ago. Career stats: 17 games, 12 tackles.Lee Smith, Bills TE, third season, Marshall: He scored his first two TDs last year, but he is a tough-guy, blocking tight end for sure. Career stats: 29 games, 11 starts, eight receptions, 24 yards, two TDs.Don Barclay, Packers RT, second year, WVU: He has started all three games so far. Career stats: 19 games, 7 starts.Vinny Curry, Eagles DE, second year, Marshall: He finally suited up last week against Kansas City and picked up his first career sack. Career stats: seven games, 10 tackles, one sack.Najee Goode, Eagles LB, second year, WVU: He started training camp with the Buccaneers but finished it with the Eagles, where he is playing some special teams. Career stats: six games, two tackles.Mario Harvey, Colts LB, second year, Marshall: After struggling to make the league, he is second string behind Jarrell Freeman in Indy. Career stats: 16 games, 15 sacks.Omar Brown, Ravens DB, second year, Marshall: He is back on the developmental squad after playing three games and traveling with the world champions in the postseason. Career stats: three games, three tackles.Bruce Irvin, Seahawks LB, second year, WVU: His transition from the D-line to linebacker was slowed by his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Career stats: 16 games, 16 tackles, eight sacks, one forced fumble.Will Johnson, Steelers FB, 2nd year, WVU: He's a fullback, so he blocks and takes a safety-valve pass here and there. But he may be critical to any revival of the Steelers' running attack. Career stats: 18 games, eight starts, two rushes, seven yards; 16 receptions, 142 yards, one TD.Dominique Jones, Colts TE, second year, Shepherd: Listed as a third-stringer behind Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, but he gets some snaps here and there. Career stats: seven games, two starts, two receptions, 21 yards.Keith Tandy, Buccaneers S, second year, WVU: Behind Mark Barron at strong safety. Career stats: 12 games, four tackles.J.T. Thomas, Bears LB, second year, WVU: After a year with the Bears, he has scored a safety - no small percentage of the scoring production for the sad-sack Jags. Career stats: 18 games, six tackles, one safety, one forced fumble.Tavon Austin, Rams WR, rookie, WVU: He served notice of his explosiveness with his 81-yard punt return in the preseason, but he has yet to repeat anything near that in real games. He did score two touchdowns in Week 2 against Atlanta. Career stats: four ames, 20 receptions, 124 yards, two TDs; four rushes, 10 yards; 13 punt returns, 3.2 average.Stedman Bailey, Rams WR, rookie, WVU: He was a close "second banana" to Austin at WVU, but he's a distant third at a receiver spot behind Chris Givens and Brian Quick. For now, he must distinguish himself on special teams. Career stats: four games, two tackles.Aaron Dobson, Patriots WR, rookie, Marshall/South Charleston HS: His first reception was memorable, a 39-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady in Week 2. But many other moments (read: drops) in that 13-10 game were forgettable. He had seven receptions for 52 yards last week against Tampa Bay. Career stats: two games, 10 receptions, 108 yards, one TDTerence Garvin, Steelers LB, rookie, WVU: Reserve linebackers must distinguish themselves on special teams, too. Career stats: three games, one tackle.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter@doug smock.
The 26 players in NFL training camps with connections to the state of West Virginia:
Player NFL team Hgt Wgt Pos College
Tavon Austin Rams 5-9 174 WR West Virginia
Stedman Bailey Rams 5-10 193 WR West Virginia
Don Barclay Packers 6-4 305 T West Virginia
Ahmad Bradshaw Colts 5-10 214 RB Marshall
*Omar Brown Ravens 5-11 195 S Marshall
Vinny Curry Eagles 6-3 279 DE Marshall
Aaron Dobson Patriots 6-3 200 WR Marshall
Terence Garvin Steelers 6-3 221 LB West Virginia
Najee Goode Bucs 6-0 244 LB West Virginia
Mario Harvey Colts 6-0 264 ILB Marshall
Bruce Irvin Seahawks 6-3 248 DE West Virginia
Will Johnson Steelers 6-2 238 FB West Virginia
Adam Jones Bengals 5-10 180 CB West Virginia
Dominique Jones Colts 6-3 270 TE Shepherd
Ellis Lankster Jets 5-9 190 CB West Virginia
Doug Legursky Bills 6-1 315 C-G Marshall
Pat McAfee Colts 6-1 233 P West Virginia
Albert McClellan Ravens 6-2 255 LB Marshall
Ryan Mundy Giants 6-1 209 S West Virginia
Chris Neild Redskins 6-2 325 NT West Virginia
Darius Reynaud Titans 5-9 208 KR West Virginia
Lee Smith Bills 6-6 265 TE Marshall
Geno Smith Jets 6-3 221 QB West Virginia
C.J. Spillman 49ers 6-0 199 S Marshall
Keith Tandy Bucs 5-10 205 S West Virginia
J.T. Thomas Bears 6-1 236 LB West Virginia
* - Developmental squad