New York Jets vs Miami Dolphins: Takeaways from New York's 20-7 Win over Miami
Geno Smith was excellent for most of the game, making plays with his arm and his legs while keeping the ball away from the opponent. Rookie Dee Milliner came up huge in the secondary with two interceptions.
The Jets have a lot of work to do as they enter the offseason, but considering where they sat at 6-8 two weeks ago, the season could not have ended on a better note.
Here are the takeaways following the eighth and final win of the season.
Coaching Was the Difference
For nearly the entire game, it was difficult to tell which team had a playoff berth on the line. The much-looser Jets broke out all of the stops to get their eighth win of the season, using trick plays and wacky personnel packages to get the job done.
The Jets knew they had to play well to ensure that Rex Ryan would be retained as head coach for next season, but the fact they looked so much more prepared than a team that needed a win much more than they did speaks to how well they were coached headed into this game.
It was not just the trick plays and gadget personnel that made the difference. The Jets' top three draft picks all showed great development over the past month, which attributes to quality coaching.
As a result, it is no surprise the team has confirmed, per its official Twitter account, Rex Ryan will be retained for next season, as there are not many coaches in the league who could have won eight games with the talent on his roster.
Geno Smith Finishes Strong
Smith and the Jets may not be setting offensive records, but it is difficult to criticize the winning performance he has displayed in two straight weeks.
He finished with a modest 190 yards, but he completed 17 of 27 passes and kept the ball away from the opponent for the second straight week.
His two most memorable plays came on a pair of runs in the red zone (one which went for a touchdown), but the most encouraging aspect of Smith's play was how much better he was against the blitz. There were a few occasions in which he identified a blitz and got the ball out to the correct receiver in a hurry to combat the aggressive style of defense that gave him so much trouble this season.
There are still questions as to whether or not Smith is the quarterback of the future, but he finished the season as strongly as the Jets could have reasonably expected him to.
Dee Milliner Continues to Ascend
Outside of Smith's performance, the most encouraging aspect of this game was how well the Jets' top draft pick, cornerback Dee Milliner, closed out his turbulent season.
Not far removed from his third benching of the season, all Milliner did was notch two interceptions and break up five passes.
He gave up a few completions to Mike Wallace, but when considering how much he was abused in their last meeting, the Jets have to be thrilled with the development of their first-round pick. Ryan took some criticism for continuing to start Milliner, but it appears as if the extra experience has finally paid off.
Milliner still has a ways to go before he is a finished product, but the Jets have to be relieved that their top rookie is finally starting to turn the corner.
Pass Rush Is Invisible
This may have been a convincing win over a solid opponent, but the Jets still disappointed in several areas, specifically on defense.
Despite going against a subpar Dolphins offensive line, the Jets failed to get much pressure on Ryan Tannehill, not recording a single sack all game long. Even Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets' most consistent defensive player, was ineffective rushing the passer.
The Dolphins were doing a good job of getting rid of the ball on time, but there is too much talent on the Jets' defensive line to not come away with more "splash" plays from their big men up front.
Bilal Powell Is a Capable Starter
Chris Ivory has stolen the show as the Jets' lead tailback, but that does not mean Bilal Powell is incapable of getting the job done on his own.
While Ivory was nursing an undisclosed injury on the sideline, Powell took the workload on his back, taking 21 carries for 76 yards.
Powell is known for being a shifty runner who can be effective in the passing game, but he showed a dimension of physicality on his runs. He was dragging Dolphin defenders with him like he never has before.
Powell's play won't make the highlight reel, but his running in the fourth quarter was the biggest factor in sealing the win.
A New Goal-Line Weapon
With his second rushing touchdown of the season, Sheldon Richardson is now the second defensive tackle since William Perry to score multiple rushing touchdowns.
Richardson is not going to steal the starting tailback job from Chris Ivory, but he has at least proven he can be an effective runner in goal-line situations.
Plenty of teams have trouble getting through the final barrier on the goal line, but with the ultra-athletic Richardson on their side, they have an advantage over a lot of teams with this unique weapon.
David Nelson Looks Like a Keeper
Amazingly enough, David Nelson, who was without a team at the start of the season, has emerged as the Jets' most consistent receiver in the final month of the season.
After leading the team in receiving for the second straight week, Nelson led the pack again with five catches for 66 yards, including a 31-yard reception. He would have added another long touchdown had Smith thrown a better ball to him in the second half.
Nelson is not the fastest receiver around, but his size and route running make him a perfect No. 2 receiver and a threat in the red zone.
With another year on his contract, it would be a massive upset if Nelson is not on the team in 2014, especially with Ryan returning.
The Jets Have Stability
Now that they have established their head coach for the 2014 season, the Jets have something they have not enjoyed in quite some time: stability and normalcy.
The word "stable" may not best describe the turbulent five seasons under Ryan, but there are few head coaches who last as long in their job as Ryan has in the ever-changing NFL.
Making a change at head coach may have been the more conventional move with a new general manager in place, but the lack of constant change at head coach will help the Jets rebuild more seamlessly than if someone else was brought in with a completely different philosophy and personality.
With Ryan returning for his sixth season, the Jets will enter the season without rumors of imminent firings or regime changes. With this season behind them, the Jets can enter the next stage in their rebuilding process by adding players who will improve the team rather than shed the fat that was weighing them down.