No Ordinary John Q. Smith

By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Head Writer
October 13th, 2006
Rookie Brad Smith is a playmaker and the Jets should get him the ball often. (Jets Photo)
Rookie Brad Smith is a playmaker and the Jets should get him the ball often. (Jets Photo)
Advice to Eric Mangini and Brian Scottenheimer:

Get the ball into the hands of Brad Smith more often.

This is clearly the Jets' most explosive offensive playmaker, though he's a rookie who's learning on the fly.

The more Smith emerges as an offensive threat, the more the field will open up for the likes of Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery to make more big plays in the passing game.

Put simply, Smith is a dynamic presence who, if used more often, could open some big-time holes for Chad Pennington and the offense.

So, beginning with Sunday's key game against the Dolphins at Giants Stadium, give him the damn ball.

"Pretty much every time he's come in he's done something pretty important for us _ as far as picking up first downs,'' Jets' tight end Chris Baker said. "He has potential to take it all the way as he did in preseason. When he comes into the game it definitely gives the offense a little shot in the arm and at the same time it puts the defense on edge.''

The Jets have been smartly bringing Smith along slowly since he has so much on his plate with his transition to receiver, special teams player and even NFL quarterback from being a prolific collegiate quarterback at Missouri.

He's been a big of a tease so far with the few plays he's gotten in on offense. But more use of the option could energize the Jets' offense. So, too, would working him in a little more at quarterback.

Mangini has conceded that Smith has come further along in a shorter period of time than he could have imagined when the Jets drafted him in April. Mangini is a creative coach who likes to think outside the box and shake things up out of the norm, which makes Smith the perfect subject for some fun experimenting.

"We went with one plan (using him at receiver), but with the idea that we're going to explore all the different options and always try to create that versatility,'' Mangini said of Smith. "So as he got a different opportunity, whether it be on special teams, which he's done a nice job of, or playing quarterback against the Eagles (in preseason), or some of the jobs he's had, running back or some of the quarterback plays he's had, as he does each one of those fairly effectively, that creates another opportunity for him and some more things we can do.

"Ray Lucas set a pretty good precedent in terms of the things he did when I was here. You're always looking for those guys that have multiple roles. (Smitn) has done a nice job carving out a niche in (several) areas.''

Asked if Smith could become more involved with the offense, Mangini said, "He's just one element of the game planning, as we go into any new opponent, and sometimes the plans that we have for him may be a bit more based on what they're doing or could be scaled back based on what they're doing.

"So it won't be a set number we have to give him X number of plays. It's really more like, this is where he can be most effective. Some weeks that is going to be a little bit higher than other weeks.''

The concern about not using Smith often enough on offense is allowing him to become an automatic target if he's only inserted for gadget plays.

For example, last week against the Jaguars, the Jets used a play they hadnít used in a game all year when they had Smith split out wide, then put him in motion toward the backfield and tried to throw a screen to him. The Jags, keying in on Smith knowing something was up with him on the field, were not fooled and the play was stuffed for a big loss when a defensive back sniffed it out and hammered Smith as soon as he caught the ball.

"I think it's one of those things where he plays enough receiver, true receiver, that when he does do some other things, he doesn't come into the game just for that one purpose,'' Mangini said. "He's actually playing some core reps as receiver and then whatever other role that he has there, transitioned based off the fact that he is a true receiver.''

Mangini said Smith got more than 30 snaps, including special teams, in Jacksonville.

When asked as a joke if he'd consider playing the versatile Smith at cornerback Mangini quipped, "I wouldn't be opposed at trying him at corner, safety, rush end, whatever we need.''

When asked if Smith will ever throw a pass to Chad Pennington while Smith is under center and Pennington is split wide, Mangini deadpanned, "I think it's very important for defense to cover Chad when he's out there. You never know when he's going to go deep. He has got some vertical speed there. I would say that it would be important to have somebody out there lined up for that opportunity.''

Said Pennington: "I was born to walk.''

Smith's potential to make a big play whenever he touches the ball is not lost on his teammates who sound like they'd like to see more of Smith.

"The boy is a game-breaker,'' Coles said. "He is a game-changer. Every time he steps onto the field, teams have to respect where he's at. He can run, throw, catch, he can do it all. He reminds me of the way they used (Antwaan) Randle El over in Pittsburgh (before Randle El went to Washington via free agency). I never clocked him in the 40, but Brad looks a little bit faster. He's a great athlete. He's a star in the making.''

The Jets' preseason finale is when Jets' linebacker Matt Chatham first really noticed Smith.

"A lot of the veterans were out of the game and that can be a boring time,'' Chatham recalled. "But it was entertaining to just sit and watch Brad. All of us were up off the bench and lining the sideline because Brad was so exciting to watch.''

"He's an electric player,'' Jets' safety Kerry Rhodes said. "Whenever he steps onto the field he can make something happen. It's great our coaching staff is using him the way they are and not holding him back because he's young.''

"He's definitely a special athlete,'' Pennington said. "He is a guy that is very exciting with the ball in his hands. Anyone who holds 69 conference and NCAA records as a football player in college is a pretty exciting player, and that speaks a lot. We're excited to have him here. He does present different issues for the defense and he gives us different ways to be multiple and to exploit the defense and use him creatively, and he's done a good job so far.''

Chatham's theory on what makes Smith so compelling: "It's the unknown,'' he said. "He's one of those unknown commodity guys.''

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