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Geno Smith will find success in 2016

Nov 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) warms up prior to a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Houston won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) warms up prior to a game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Houston won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
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As it stands right now for the New York Jets, Geno Smith will be their starting quarterback come September.  That is, of course, if they cannot come to terms with last year’s starter, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Obviously right now in New York it’s a constant debate as to whether or not quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will sign back with the New York Jets in 2016.  Also, how will quarterback Geno Smith fare as the starting quarterback if Fitzpatrick and the Jets cannot come to terms on a deal?

Related Story: Geno Smith rightfully impresses during OTAs

Despite winning the job in 2015, he never got the chance to play due to the locker room incident with former-Jet IK Enkampali.  Fitzpatrick took the job and played well enough to keep the job for the entirety of the season.

Fitzpatrick has a reported three-year deal worth $24M ($12M for 2016) on the table, but is said to be countering wanting just one-year worth $12M.  Not worth it, and not going to happen.

Either way, nothing has changed as far as thoughts on Smith go.  He has yet to prove himself over the course of a full season (or at all in some people’s minds) and has struggled with reads and making good decisions on a consistent basis.

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So what leads us to believe that any of this will change in 2016?

Let’s ask ourselves one question: What if Smith had a better group of receivers in his first two seasons?

His first two seasons which were his rookie and sophomore seasons, mind you.

There was also an all-around lack of support for Smith, both on the field and in the stands. It doesn’t matter what professional team sport you play, if you lack support, it’s going to be a long, exhausting journey.

One can’t deny that Smith was a below-average quarterback in 2013 and 2014, but there were ups and downs.  Smith had three fourth quarter comebacks and seven game-winning drives in this two-year stretch, but did only throw 25 touchdowns to his 34 interceptions, completing 57.8% of passes.

Regardless, take a look at the porous roster from those two seasons.  It’s hands down a couple of the worst receiving corps in recent memory for the Jets.

In 2013, Smith’s top receiver was Jeremy Kerley (43 receptions for 523 yards); a slot receiver at best in the NFL.  Behind Kerley (in descending order by number of receptions): Bilal Powell, David Nelson, Kellen Winslow, Jeff Cumberland, Stephen Hill, Santonio Holmles – you get the point.  This group totaled 1,922 yards and 13 touchdowns.

In 2014, enter Eric Decker, who easily became the top receiver (74 receptions for 962 yards); another talented player, but he just isn’t a number one guy in the NFL.  Behind Decker (in descending order by number of receptions): Kerley, Jace Amaro, Percy Harvin, Chris Johnson and Cumberland.  This group totaled 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns.

In this two-year stretch there were some other stragglers with minimal yards and a couple of scores such as Greg Salas, Clyde Gates and Tommy Bohanon, but that’s it.  How many of these guys still play in the NFL?  Few.  Why the Rex Ryan regime thought this was sufficient we might never know or understand.

Smith was able to play against the Oakland Raiders in 2015 and despite a few mistakes, he showed promise in his only appearance.  Smith went 27-of-42 for 265 yards with two touchdowns, one interception, added 34 yards on the ground and completed passes to eight different receivers; all with zero help from the Jets’ rushing attack led by Chris Ivory.

New York Jets
New York Jets

May 25, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterbacks Bryce Petty (9), Christian Hackenberg (5) and Geno Smith (7) during OTA at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Another season is drawing near.  Smith is poised and ready to start for the Jets in 2016, and is receiving some praise from a teammate throughout OTAs.  In an article written by NJ.com’s Darryl Slater, here is what wide receiver Brandon Marshall had to say recently about Smith:

"“There was a sense of poise, comfort, and it was pretty good to watch him kind of manage the situation,” Marshall said.  “That’s the process for all players.  You’ve got to give guys time.  Every guy is different.  He seems to be growing, and that’s a good thing for all of us.  He’s doing a great job.  I’m just happy for the kid.  I’m proud of him.”  Marshall added, “Going through two-minute [on Wednesday], before we even went out on the field, standing in front of the offense, and [Smith] going through the hand signals, it was like a sense of comfort and confidence.  And that’s what you want out of all your players.  That stood out to me today.”"

Marshall is right.  Every player’s development is different.  If the game is finally slowing down for Smith, his signaling has improved, can make reads and he’s comfortable and confident, then there’s no doubt Smith will succeed under center.

He has a game changer in Marshall (which he never had before), another reliable receiver in Decker, good size and ability with Quincy Enunwa, deep threats in Devin Smith and/or Charone Peake, and a safety blanket in the Jets’ recent addition Matt Forte at his disposal.

On the field, the skills are there.  Smith allows the Jets to lengthen the field, he certainly has better natural arm talent and more mobility to move outside the pocket and make plays than Fitzpatrick does.  The concern with Smith is between the ears.

must read: Predicting starting defensive secondary of the Jets

If what Marshall says is true, Smith brings the tools to the table and can lock it down mentally, he has the players around him that could make 2016 a great success for him and the Jets (saving New York $12M or more in the process).  Just be smart, kid.  Go out there and perform.  If not, we in New York shall never discuss this again because you’ll have to find a career elsewhere.

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