The Jets' depth chart lists Brad Smith as a wide receiver, but Smith does a lot more than just catch passes. As the team's primary kickoff returner, a special-teams gunner and "Wildcat" quarterback, as well as occasional receiver, Smith has a variety of roles. For most players, this would be an issue. But for the fifth-year pro, having multiple jobs suit him well.
Smith highlighted all his skills in New York's 26-10 win on Thanksgiving night vs. the Bengals. He took an end-around 53 yards for a score in the third quarter to give the Jets the lead, then followed that up with an 89-yard kickoff-return TD, the last 50 yards of which were run without a right shoe. On the day he finished with three rushes for 55 yards, one reception for 23 yards and three kickoff returns for 122 yards, leading the Jets to their fourth consecutive win.
"He is an amazing guy and an amazing talent," head coach Rex Ryan said after the game. "He had 200 total yards and two touchdowns today. I'm definitely glad he was on our side. He's a phenomenal athlete. Everything we asked Brad to do, he does. … He's just a great football player."
The PFW Spin
For the Jets, the past five weeks since their bye have just been rehearsals. Now the curtain rises for the real show.
To say next Monday's game vs. the Patriots has a lot on the line would be an understatement. First place in the AFC East hangs in the balance, as does the top seed in the AFC. The winner could have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the loser will start their postseason journey on the road if they make it. With a win, the Jets become the 'it' team in the division, having taken 3-of-4 from New England since Rex Ryan took over as head coach. With a loss, it's the same-old role for New York, standing in the first-place shadow of the mighty Brady and Belichick duo.
The game is in Gillette Stadium, where Tom Brady has won 25 consecutive games, tying an NFL record. If the Jets are going to win, they need to slow down Brady and the dynamic Patriots offense, which leads the league in points per game. This will mean an effective running game that works the clock and keeps the three-time Super Bowl champ on the sideline. It also means the Jets' defense will need to be at their best, a task that looks achievable after their domination of the Bengals last Thursday. The Patriots also rolled to a Thanksgiving-Day win, but Darrelle Revis is going to be a lot tougher to push around than Lions CB Alphonso Smith was.
But when it comes down to the end, the game likely won't be decided by Brady or Revis or Ryan or Belichick. It will be an x-factor, some player on the periphery who steps into the spotlight. Any number of players on both rosters have a chance to do it. But based on what he did last week, and what he has done his entire career, don't be surprised if it's Brad Smith, in one of his many roles, that comes through when the Jets need it most.