Could Geno Smith be the Seahawks’ quarterback of the future?

Geno Smith has surprised just about everybody as the Seahawks’ quarterback this season. Doug Farrar posits that it might be more than a one-year thing.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has said for years that he envisions his ideal quarterback as a “point guard.”

Before the 2022 season started, and as the Seahawks prepared for their season-opening matchup against Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos, Carroll was asked just what that meant. It was a verbose response, and it’s something Carroll’s obviously thought a lot about.

“Yeah, it’s just the way I’ve learned to appreciate the position. I really learned to appreciate through the San Francisco system, way back when, when Coach [Bill] Walsh was there and what he did with his guys, Joe [Montana] and Steve [Young] and how he talked about it and how he expected them to play and what their role was in a football team’s approach. He designed his offenses; he’s the most brilliant guy to ever coach the game.

“He designed his offense to make it as easy as possible for the quarterbacks because he knew the position was so hard to play. And remember all the catch and run stuff and all the quick rhythm stuff that he was famous for, that was so the quarterback didn’t have to be carrying the load. He can get the ball out of his hands, working with his line and his guys and all that. That just has always resonated. That’s what West Coast is. West Coast is long lost from where it was, but that was all of Coach Walsh’s image of what that position and how it should function in terms of how a team plays football. They’ve featured a tremendous amount of short passing game. He was kind of the guy that started all that.

“So, I’m kind of a hoops guy. Maybe that’s why that reference comes out.”

Why it comes out is important in that new starting quarterback Geno Smith has seemed to be the perfect distillation of Carroll’s quarterback preferences.

Whoever wrote Geno Smith off, he ain’t writing back after big Seahawks win

Through the first four games of the 2022 season as the Seahawks’ post-Wilson starter, Smith has completed 102 of 132 passes for 1,037 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. His completion rate of 77.3% is the second-highest for any quarterback in the first four games of a season in NFL history (behind only Tom Brady in 2007), and going back to last season when he was Wilson’s injury replacement for three starts, Smith has a four-game stretch from October through October in which he has the fourth-highest completion rate (78.2%) inany four-game stretch in league annals.

This would lead you to believe that Smith is nothing more than a Captain Checkdown, but that’s not the case. His 7.9 yards per attempt average has him tied with Atlanta’s Marcus Mariota for fourth-best in the NFL, and he’s completed seven of 13 passes of 20 or more air yards for 167 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.

Through those first four weeks, Smith ranks second in DVOA (Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted per-play efficiency metric) for quarterbacks, behind only Tua Tagovailoa. He ranks third in DYAR, FO’s cumulative efficiency metric, behind only Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. 

Not bad, and quite surprising, for a 2013 second-round pick who’s been more journeyman and backup than rockstar through his NFL career. Smith won the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week award on Wednesday after he riddled the Detroit Lions with 23 completions in 30 attempts (76.7 percent) for 320 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and a 132.6 passer rating, while also rushing for 49 yards and a touchdown in Seattle’s 48-45 Week 4 victory over the Detroit Lions.

It wasn’t just the stats that stood out; it’s the ways in which Smith has taken control of this offense that has me thinking he’s more than a bridge quarterback between Wilson and whoever is available in free agency or the draft in 2023.

Cowboys’ Cooper Rush is not creating a quarterback controversary

Cowboys backup QB Cooper Rush has played well. But does he present a legitimate challenge to Dak Prescott? Laurie Fitzpatrick investigates.

The Dallas Cowboys have been undefeated since their backup quarterback Cooper Rush has come in for the injured Dak Prescott.

Rush is the only Cowboys quarterback to lead his team to wins in his first four starts. In these three games, he has a 60% completion percentage, 737 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Well, the interceptions he has thrown were all during penalty plays, and lucky for him, they were negated. Otherwise, he’s been playing it pretty safe.

On Sunday against the Washington Commanders in a 25-10 win, Rush completed 15 of 27 for 223 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a 107.5 rating.

The real question is if Rush actually creates a quarterback controversary in Dallas — because, believe it or not, that has been a bit of a narrative of late.

“I can’t say enough about his play,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said after the Commanders game. “What it has possibly done for this team this season to give us a chance to sit here after these last three ball games and maybe have the opportunity we’ve got for the rest of the year. It’s amazing. It’s far more than what I would’ve expected.”

Let’s get into the film to see where he does and doesn’t play well and if he offers anything that Dak Prescott doesn’t.

Secret Superstars for Week 4 of the 2022 NFL season

From Geno Smith to Jamaree Salyer to Talanoa Hufanga, here are the Secret Superstars for Week 4 of the 2022 NFL season.

There are all kinds of reasons that NFL players are underrated and unsung.

Perhaps they’re in systems that don’t best show their skills. Maybe they’re buried on a depth chart. Or, they’re in somebody’s doghouse, and their coaches can’t see their potential. Or, their efforts are relatively unnoticed among their more celebrated teammates. Sometimes, young players haven’t quite put it all together, but there are enough flashes to make you sit up and take notice, and when it does work, it’s all good.

Week 4 of the 2022 regular season featured players at just about every position who showed up and showed out despite their underrated statuses, and here at Touchdown Wire, it’s our job to point them out.

Here are the Secret Superstars for Week 4 of the 2022 NFL season.

Rookie left tackle Charles Cross’ crucial call clinched a win for Seahawks

Seattle Seahawks rookie left tackle Charles Cross made a crucial read to seal his team’s Scorigami win over the Detroit Lions.

The Detroit Lions came into their Week 4 game against the Seahawks ranking 24th in Football Outsiders’ Defensive Adjusted Line Yards metric, and they’d allowed 4.56 running back yards per carry on the young season, so it probably wasn’t a surprise that Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny gashed Aaron Glenn’s defense for 151 yards and two touchdowns on just 17 carries.

Penny’s second touchdown run, a 41-yarder with 2:14 left in the game, gave Seattle just enough points to survive their 48-45 Scorigami win (there had never been a 48-45 game in pro football history before). And it wasn’t just Penny beating up the Lions’ vulnerable defense. After the game, Penny made sure to credit rookie left tackle Charles Cross for the assist.

Cross, the Mississippi State alum, was selected ninth overall in the 2022 draft, and he was OT1 in our pre-draft list of offensive tackles. I paid more attention to Cross’ pass-blocking than his run-blocking — primarily because he had 719 pass-blocking snaps to 200 run-blocking snaps in his final collegiate season — but Cross’ college tape showed two things — he’s smart enough to deal with protection adjustments, and his athleticism will show up just about every time he’s asked to drive forward in the run game.

On the replay of Penny’s run, you can see Cross pull all the way over from left tackle to outside right tackle, and taking linebacker Chris Board out of the way as Penny matriculated the ball downfield. The Lions did indeed have an over-shifted front to the defensive left side, with five defenders from the center out, and as all Detroit defenders pinched inside, Cross got his thing going outside.

Not bad for a guy in his fourth regular-season game. In Cross and third-round rookie right tackle Abe Lucas (the most interesting person in Seattle), the Seahawks have more potential on their offensive line than they’ve had in a number of years.

Game of the Week: How the Jaguars can beat the Eagles

Jaguars vs Eagles: Laurie Fitzpatrick goes to the tape to reveal Jacksonville’s five keys to victory in the NFL’s game of the week.

The game of the week is set!

This Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST, the (2-1) Jacksonville Jaguars face off against the undefeated (3-0) Philadelphia Eagles at Philly’s Lincoln Financial Field.

Doug Pederson, who led the Eagles to their only Super Bowl victory, returns for the first time as an opposing head coach.

Both teams are facing their toughest opponent thus far. The Eagles must prove that they deserve to be one of the top teams in the league (according to the power rankings). Defensively, the Eagles rank among the top 10 leaguewide in both yards and points allowed. Offensively, Jalen Hurts ranks fourth in EPA per dropback among all quarterbacks in the league.

But this is also technically a trap game for the Eagles. They are favored by 6.5 points. The Jaguars’ offense has been on a roll after beating their last two opponents by 20+ points, and their defense leads the league in turnover differential.

This game has so many great matchups, we needed more than one article on it. My colleague Doug Farrar has written about how the Eagles can win this game.

Game of the Week: How the Eagles can beat the Jaguars

Here are the keys to victory for the Jaguars if they want to come away with an upset win against the Eagles!

Why has Davante Adams disappeared from the Raiders’ passing game?

Davante Adams has toggled between inefficient and invisible in the Raiders’ passing game. Why is this so, and how can Josh McDaniels fix it?

In receiver Davante Adams’ first regular-season game with the Las Vegas Raiders, against the Los Angeles Chargers, the ball distribution from quarterback Derek Carr went about as expected. Carr threw to his former Fresno State teammate 15 times, and Adams caught 10 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. That’s about what you’d want from an above-average quarterback throwing to the NFL’s best receiver, particularly a receiver for whom the Raiders gave up as much as they did.

In March, the Raiders gave the Green Bay Packers their first- and a second-round pick — the 22nd and 53rd selections in the 2022 draft — for Adams, and they then signed Adams to a five-year, $140 million contract with $65.67 million in guaranteed money. Adams chose his college teammate over Aaron Rodgers, and given the ways in which Adams can just scorch any pass defense, it was clear that the Raiders saw Adams as the final key to unlock their passing game under new head coach and offensive shot-caller Josh McDaniels.

In the Chargers game, that was the case. Since then, it has not been — and it has not been in a clear fashion. Against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2, and against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3, Adams caught a total of seven passes on a total of 15 targets for 48 yards. Adams did catch a touchdown pass in each of his games, but given the fact that the Raiders are now 0-3 in games they’ve lost by a total of 13 points, one wonders how that might be different if Adams had been more productive in either of those last two games.

The most glaring and ugly statistic here? Carr has targeted Adams on six passes of 20 or more air yards, and Adams has no catches on those targets. Zero, zip, nada. Last season with the Packers, Adams was one of the NFL’s better deep receivers, catching 13 passes of 20 or more air yards on 27 targets for 453 yards and two touchdowns.

If that isn’t the most glaring and ugly statistic regarding this new partnership, it’s only because this one is.

In the Raiders’ 24-22 loss to the Titans on Sunday, receiver Mack Hollins had a career day, with ctaches on 10 targets for 158 yards and a touchdown to Adams’ five on 10 targets for 36 yards and a score. Hollins excelled with deep catches, and all of that got him on this week’s Secret Superstars team.

That’s a nice story, but Adams is now the one who’s being treated like a secret to his own coaches and quarterback. And the issues go further than the simple idea that the Raiders are using Adams as a decoy to open things up for other targets.

Let’s get forensic, and work to the heart of this unexpected dysfunction.

How Doug Pederson has weaponized the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense

Touchdown Wire’s Laurie Fitzpatrick dives into how Doug Pederson has weaponized Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense.

New head coach and offensive shot-caller Doug Pederson has completely transformed the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense. The last time the franchise has won back-to-back games of 20+ points or more was in the year 2000. The offense is currently sitting fifth in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (opponent-adjusted efficiency) metric.

Which has actually been the best DVOA through three games, ever!

Pederson has managed to call a well-balanced offense with a 55% passing play percentage. Also putting him in seventh in EPA per play efficiency.

In the passing game, Pederson is effectively using play-action stemming from the run game paired with a quick passing offense to move the chains. According to Pro Football Focus, among quarterbacks who have had a minimum of 100 dropbacks, Trevor Lawrence is getting the ball out fourth quickest at an average of 2.4 seconds. Since Lawrence is getting the ball out quicker it also puts him at the top of the league when it comes to sack percentage, 1.77% of plays.

The offense is running like a well-oiled machine.

Let’s go to the film and diagnose how Pederson is using the run game to open the passing game, and vice-versa!

How the Bills’ defense can still be great despite Micah Hyde’s season-ending injury

Bills cornerback Micah Hyde is out for the rest of the 2022 season with a neck injury. Here’s why Buffalo’s defense should still be okay.

The Buffalo Bills were already coming into their game-of-the-week matchup against the Miami Dolphins and their explosive passing game lighter than they’d like on defense. Cornerbacks Tre’Davious White (ACL) and Dane Jackson (neck) are out, as is defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (hamstring) and safety Micah Hyde (neck).

On Saturday morning, the news went from bad to worse when Jack Bechta, Hyde’s agent, revealed that Hyde’s neck injury, which he suffered in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans, will cause him to miss the rest of the 2022 season.

This is obviously a major blow to Buffalo’s league-best defense, as Hyde and Jordan Poyer have comprised the NFL’s best safety duo for a few years now. By the way, Poyer will probably be a game-time decision with a foot injury. So, ouch.

Beyond whatever happens against the Dolphins, how do the Bills get past this? They are viewed as the prohibitive Super Bowl favorites in the AFC, and for good reason, but as much as they’ll miss Hyde, head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier must adopt the “Next Man Up” philosophy as they go.

“I know we have a number of injuries here, but I remain very confident in our football team, and very confident in the back end,” Sean McDermott said this week.

That was more about rookie cornerbacks Kaiir Elam and Christian Benford, who will be on the field in place of White and Jackson, but it now must apply to Hyde’s position.

How the Bills can stop the Dolphins’ explosive passing game

The Buffalo Bills’ defense has quite the challenge this Sunday: Stop the Miami Dolphins’ ridiculous passing game. Here’s how the Bills can do it.

It is unclear what the Buffalo Bills collectively thought when they first saw their 2022 regular-season schedule, with the Miami Dolphins as their Week 3 matchup. As Buffalo beat its AFC East rival in both games last season by combined scores of 61-11, perhaps there wasn’t much thought about it at all.

Now, the Bills know exactly what they’ll be facing this Sunday in what is unquestionably the game of the week. The 2-0 Dolphins, under new head coach and offensive shot-caller Mike McDaniel, are just about as hot as the 2-0 Bills after their amazing game against the Baltimore Ravens in which Miami overcame a 21-point halftime deficit to beat Baltimore, 42-38.

The stats in that game were pretty impressive for McDaniel’s team. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the first time in 12 years a team has come back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Since 2011, NFL teams are 0-711 when trailing by at least 21 points in the fourth quarter. And per NFL Research, the Dolphins were the first team in NFL history to have a player record 400+ passing yards and 5+ passing TDs (quarterback Tua Tagovailoa) in the same game as two teammates recording 170+ receiving yards and 2+ receiving touchdowns (receivers Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill).

Tagovailoa’s six passing touchdowns tied a franchise record and was the most by any NFL quarterback since Patrick Mahomes had six touchdown passes on Nov. 19, 2018 against the Los Angeles Rams.

It got to the point where McDaniel and Tagovailoa were able to quickly communicate on what the head coach called the “F— it” play, which became one of Hill’s two deep touchdowns. 

The Dolphins’ ‘F— it” play vs. the Ravens typified their explosive potential

The Bills have been just as much about great defense as great offense this season (they rank first in Defensive DVOA, while the Dolphins rank second in Offensive DVOA behind the Ravens), but head coach Sean McDermott is well aware of the test his team faces.

“He’s a once in a lifetime player with his speed, and his ability to go after the contested catch,” McDermott said of Hill this week. “They’ve got tremendous speed on offense. They put up points, they do a great job scheme-wise, and Mike does a great job putting them in positions to be successful. So, it’ll be a big challenge for us.”

It’s likely that the matchup between Buffalo’s explosive offense and Miami’s average defense will once again have the Dolphins playing catchup. Here’s how the Bills can prevent what happened to the Ravens happening to them.

All advanced metrics courtesy of Sports Info SolutionsPro Football Focus, and Football Outsiders unless otherwise indicated).

How Jalen Hurts and the Eagles put a dagger in the Vikings’ defense

Touchdown Wire’s Laurie Fitzpatrick examines how Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts masterfully exploited the Vikings’ two-deep coverages.

Going into the Monday Night football game versus the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles knew that there was a lot of pressure on their quarterback Jalen Hurts to prove himself. It was also up to offensive coordinator Shane Steichen to provide him with the tools for success.

Hurts ended up completing 17 out of 20 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown through the air. On the ground, he rushed for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Hurts ended with an 83% completion percentage and a QBR of 108.7.

We can confidently say that it was one of his most complete games as an Eagle.

Let’s go into the film and break down how Hurts was able to slice through the Vikings defense to come out with a dominating win under the lights!