Even with his offense performing at league-low levels, Rex Ryan will not change his starting quarterback.
That means Geno Smith gets another chance to break out of a dreadful slump as the New York Jets host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Ryan said this week he has faith in Smith, and that the rookie "has the tools to be a good quarterback in this league." The issue for Ryan, Smith and the Jets is that those tools haven't shown up recently.
Smith has not thrown a touchdown pass in five straight games and leads the NFL with 19 interceptions, including six during the current three-game losing streak. He's completed a woeful 39.2 percent of his attempts in the last four, with no more than nine completions in any of them.
"Obviously, he's going through some rough times," Ryan said. "These last three games haven't been good for him. Quite honestly, it hasn't been good for a lot of us."
New York's offense is averaging 4.82 yards per play to rank 29th in the NFL, and the team goes 3-and-out on nearly a third (32.3 percent) of its offensive drives, which is the worst in the league. The Jets are the only team not averaging at least 300 total yards (295.5) since the beginning of October.
Smith was benched at halftime last Sunday in a 23-3 loss to Miami. Matt Simms played the final two quarters, but he didn't perform much better than his predecessor, so Ryan is sticking with Smith - the league's lowest-rated passer.
"It seems like I say this every week, but there's always a way to get better and I've got plenty of room to improve," Smith said. "So I've just got to continue to plug at it and got to keep working."
Despite their recent stretch of poor offensive play - 20 total points during the three-game skid - the Jets (5-7) are just a game out of the second AFC wild-card spot. With three of their final four opponents currently at or below .500, including Oakland, New York still has a chance to turn around its season.
"There's definitely a sense of urgency now," offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson told the team's website. "You recognize there are four games left and we recognize the challenge that's before us, but all we can do is just keep our heads down and grind right now and focus on our work."
The offense could receive a boost from wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, who is expected to play for the first time since dislocating his left elbow last month.
Kerley leads the Jets with 28 catches, and with fellow receiver Santonio Holmes and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. also expected to play, the Jets could have all three on the field together for the first time since Week 4.
The Raiders (4-8) last played on Thanksgiving, coughing up a 14-point lead to Dallas in a 31-24 defeat. The loss was indicative of a trend that has hurt Oakland all season, having dropped five games in which it held a second-half lead.
"We haven't made enough plays at the end of football games to be able to win those games," coach Dennis Allen said. "(If) we keep giving ourselves opportunities, we keep putting ourselves in those positions, eventually ... we'll make those plays at the end of the games and we'll win those games."
If he is healthy enough to play, Rashad Jennings will continue to be a heavy part of the Raiders offense. He led the NFL with 569 total yards in November, including 448 rushing, and scored four touchdowns to take some pressure off rookie quarterback Matt McGloin.
Jennings did suffer a concussion against Dallas and will have to go through NFL protocol before being cleared to play. Backup Darren McFadden is sidelined again, this time with an ankle injury, and third-stringer Jeremy Stewart, who is nursing a combination of ankle and knee injuries, was unable to practice Wednesday.
That may force the Raiders to make an unusual move. Taiwan Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who was converted to cornerback during the offseason, practiced with the first-team offense Wednesday and could conceivably start against the Jets if Oakland's injured running backs aren't able to do so.
Whoever takes hand-offs will have a tough challenge against the Jets, who have the league's best run defense. New York allows 77.0 yards per game on the ground and 2.9 per carry.
McGloin hasn't had 20 completions in a game, but he may be asked to air it out this week.
"I think Matt has gone in and handled himself pretty well," Allen said. "Really, in every game that he's been the starting quarterback, we've had an opportunity to win those football games."
The Raiders will be making their second trip to MetLife Stadium in five weeks after losing 24-20 to the Giants there Nov. 10.
Oakland has lost three straight road games against the Jets since a win in 1996, but won the last meeting 34-24 on Sept. 25, 2011, as McFadden ran for 171 yards and two scores.
The Associated Press News Service
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