Regardless of how it happened, New York Giants quarterback Geno Smith will make his first start against the Oakland Raiders Sunday. The phrase that comes to mind is “be careful what you wish for”.
Smith will take the field with the 31st ranked offense in the NFL. The Giants only score 15.6 points per game. The offense only managed one first down in the second half of a 20-10 loss to the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving night and that was on the game’s final drive.
There will be no Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall for Smith throw to. No Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg to protect him when he’s behind center. The Giants offense that takes the field in Oakland is a patchwork hodgepodge lacking in overall talent.
Despite that, Smith realizes Sunday’s game is about a little bit more than trying to lead the Giants to their third win of the season. It’s also going to be an audition for the other 31 NFL teams. Smith signed a one-year free agent deal with the Giants after spending his first four NFL seasons with the stadium mate New York Jets.
Smith will have Sterling Shepard, who missed the past two games with migraines. Shepard’s presence can only help a Giants offense that has struggled to score points. He will also have Evan Engram, who is coming off the worst game of his NFL career against the Redskins.
Smith doesn’t have Eli Manning’s resume or knowledge of the offense but he can throw the deep ball. The Giants offense could benefit if there are opportunities for Smith to use his legs to keep the chains moving.
Smith’s first Giants start will be against a Raiders defense that allows 244.8 passing yards a game, ranked 27th. The offensive line’s biggest test will be the containment of All-Pro defensive end and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. Mack has 6.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits this season. Smith’s mobility will be a factor with Mack chasing him all afternoon.
“I think he’ll keep drives alive,” Shepard said. “When the play breaks down, he’s definitely going to be a dual-threat guy. He can extend plays and you know a spiral is coming at you when it’s coming.”
The Giants offense only managed 141 yards and three points against the Redskins. They only have three plays of 20 yards or better all season. In a way, Smith has nothing to lose because the Giants offense can’t get any worse. Geno Smith might be able to jump start an offense that needs something, anything to get it going. He’ll just have to do it with a hodgepodge patchwork lacking in overall talent.