During his days belting "Country Roads" by John Denver, Smith threw 97 touchdowns to just 20 interceptions, including a dazzling 42-touchdown, seven-interception senior season in which he completed 71.2% of his throws.
This year, his 10th in the NFL, Smith is completing a at 7.9 yards per attempt with six touchdowns and two interceptions en route to a passer rating of 108 during the Seahawks' 2-2 start.
And we've never really seen this Smith before as a professional. For as fantastic of a comeback story Smith has been, there aren't many who believe he will continue to play like West Virginia Geno. Can he though?
While attempting to answer that question -- something I did not think I'd be doing this season -- I also discovered why Smith has been so efficient in the first month of the season. Seattle's protecting him well, and he's dicing up secondaries from inside the pocket.
And a clean-pocket play is more predictive than under-pressure performance, which bodes well for his immediate future as the Seahawks quarterback.
Here's how Smith has operated from a clean pocket to date this season, compared to the rest of his career in that scenario.
|Geno Smith from a clean pocket||Adjusted Comp %||YPA||TD||INT|
Smith so far in 2022 (four starts)
Smith's career before 2022 (38 starts)
Yeah, he's playing a little out of his mind. Now, I will say, the second row does include a 11-touchdown, 14-interception disaster as a rookie. Also, in 2021 for Seattle, Smith's adjusted completion rate was a gargantuan 91.9% at 9.5 yards per attempt with five touchdowns without an interception. Across his 166 clean-pocket attempts with the Seahawks: 8.3 yards per attempt, an adjusted completion percentage of 86.8 with 10 touchdowns and one pick. In short, Smith's been cooking as a member of the Seahawks.
And this season, it's not as if Smith's feasted on a quartet of brutal defenses. The Broncos are sixth in Football Outsiders' pass defense DVOA. The 49ers are fourth, the Falcons 17th and the Lions 24th.
Back to the pressure. Unsurprisingly, Smith's worst outing of the season came against Nick Bosa and Co. And what do you know, the 49ers are currently second in team pressure-creation rate at 41.4%.
Of course, there's room for volatility with this pressure-rate statistic given the small sample size we have right now, but here's the list of defenses Smith and Seattle's offensive line are set to face over the next 13 games, and where those units currently rank in pressure-creation rate:
- Week 5, Saints - 32nd
- Week 6 and 9 - Cardinals - 27th
- Week 7, Chargers - 14th (no Joey Bosa)
- Week 8, Giants - 9th
- Week 10, Buccaneers - 10th
- Week 12, Raiders - 20th
- Week 13 and 18, Rams - 31st
- Week 14, Panthers - 6th
- Week 15, 49ers - 2nd
- Week 16, Chiefs - 23rd
- Week 17, Jets - 17th
Any quarterback would gladly accept that lineup of pass rushes over a 13-game stretch in today's NFL. The schedule absolutely could be much more daunting.
Smith's best-in-the-league completion rate hasn't been buoyed by a plethora of quick throws, conservative checkdowns, etc -- modes of operation that almost always lead to a quarterback eventually regressing, because eventually the throws to the intermediate level and down the field have to be made, as defenses learn to sit on everything underneath.
Smith's average depth of target (aDOT) is smack dab in the middle of the NFL at 8.1 yards, tied with Tom Brady and Joe Burrow. Entering Week 5, he has the eighth-most completions at the intermediate level and is tied for the eighth-most completions 20 or more yards downfield. His stat line is legit.
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Plus, the Seahawks are throwing the ball on early downs -- the optimal down to pass. Smith's 39 attempts on first down in neutral situations (scoring margin between -8 and 8 points) are tied for the fourth-highest in football. And his nearly 30% play-action rate is the 11th-highest figure among qualifying quarterbacks. The Seahawks' offensive philosophy has advanced past the Stone Age!
Don't forget, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron is yet another Sean McVay disciple, having spent five seasons with him in Washington and Los Angeles.
It might read crazy, and I went into this thinking "no way." But I've concluded that, yes, Smith can continue to be one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL this season. And he will. For this season, West Virginia Geno is back.