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NFL New York Jets

New York Jets: Geno Smith Takes Big Step Forward in Week 16

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

After being eliminated from playoff contention, the New York Jets headed into the final two weeks of the season looking to evaluate their roster for the future. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith is at the top of that list, and the Jets wanted to see if he could prove that he is the right player to lead this team forward. Smith had two games to leave a strong impression, and he did exactly that in yesterday’s 24-13 win over the Cleveland Browns.

Smith completed 20/36 passes for 214 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding 7 carries for 48 yards and another touchdown. It was his best performance since Week 5, and it showed the dual threat quarterback that Smith is capable of becoming. Most importantly, Smith was not sacked and did not turn the ball over, the two problems that have plagued him all season. He was patient in the pocket, made good decisions and delivered accurate throws.

This is a big step forward from Smith, and this is the type of development that the Jets need to see heading into the offseason. They want to move forward with Smith as their quarterback, but first they must see some signs that he has the potential to be their quarterback of the future. This was a great first step for Smith, who looked like a comfortable, confident quarterback for the first time in a long time.

Smith faces a much bigger challenge next week when the Jets close the season at the Miami Dolphins, who are absolutely desperate for a win. Smith failed miserably in the Jets’ first meeting with Dolphins, completing just 4/10 passes for 29 yards and an interception before being benched. Given that the Dolphins need a win to have any shot at the playoffs, they should be playing at the top of their game. This is a great test for Smith to see where he is at before the season ends, and a strong performance in Week 17 would likely seal his place as the starting quarterback for 2014.

Smith is starting to move in the right direction, and a strong finish to the season is exactly what the Jets’ and their fans want to see from this young quarterback. Smith has the ability to end many of the questions about his future, and he did an excellent job of starting that process against the Browns. It is now up to him to continue to improve.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google