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 HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Kellen Clemens realizes he'll be back to wearing a cap and holding a clipboard soon enough. For now, the New York Jets' backup quarterback wants to keep showing he can lead the offense.
It's unclear how much - or if - starter Chad Pennington will play against Philadelphia on Thursday night, so that could mean even more playing time for Clemens.
``This is a big game,'' Clemens said Tuesday. ``This will be the last chance that I know that I have a pretty good chance of playing. You want to go out there, hopefully finish strong and put on a good showing.''
The second-year quarterback has done a nice job of that so far in the preseason. Clemens has consistently moved the second-team offense, going 28-of-39 for 352 yards and four touchdowns, run for another score and thrown two interceptions.
``It's definitely a lot easier being in my second year right now,'' Clemens said. ``We had a lot of time in the offseason to work and get more comfortable in the offense. Things are fortunately coming together for us. The game is slowing down at this point, as it should. In your second year, things should become more clear.''
Clemens has done all he can to clarify the quarterback situation by outperforming Pennington and appearing to lock up the backup job.
``That is based on Coach's evaluation and what he thinks,'' Clemens said. ``Right now, I think offensively, the second group has moved the ball and scored some points, but we still have some things to tighten up. Hopefully, we can finish it off.''
Clemens' performance this summer has instilled confidence that he can take over if Pennington - who had shoulder operations in consecutive seasons before last year's comeback - goes down with an injury.
``He's really established himself as a solid NFL quarterback and he continues to get better every day,'' said wide receiver Justin McCareins, who has benefited from Clemens' emergence with six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.
The game against the Eagles will be crucial for Marques Tuiasosopo, who's competing with Brad Smith for the No. 3 job. The veteran, entering his seventh season, signed with the Jets in the offseason with eyes on the backup spot.
While Clemens has seized that role, Tuiasosopo has been limited to mop-up duty. He's 7-of-13 for 68 yards and a touchdown.
``With the reps that I have had in practice and in games, I think I have shown that I am capable of operating this offense,'' Tuiasosopo said.
Tuiasosopo played in just 11 games, with two starts, in his first six NFL seasons with Oakland and the results were less than spectacular. That perhaps makes Thursday night even more crucial for Tuiasosopo.
``Anytime we go out and play, I feel like it is a great opportunity to showcase what I can do and how I can help this team,'' he said. ``Whether it was the last game, two games before that or this upcoming game, they are all important.''
As Tuiasosopo fights for a roster spot, Smith's place is secure because of his versatility. He played quarterback at Missouri, where he was the first player in NCAA history to pass for at least 8,000 yards and run for at least 4,000. The Jets drafted him last year as a wide receiver, and Smith lined up at that position, as well as quarterback and running back.
Heading into this training camp, Smith is listed only as a quarterback, although he has played regularly at wide receiver. He has seen even less time than Tuiasosopo under center in the preseason, going 4-of-7 for 21 yards.
``It helps in understanding the big picture, what everyone is doing and how each spot fits into the whole plan,'' Smith said of playing quarterback. ``Understanding the plan and all the protections has been a great help to me and I'm still picking up more and more everyday.''
The question coach Eric Mangini will have to answer by Saturday's cutdown day is whether he's comfortable with Smith as his No. 3 quarterback instead of Tuiasosopo.
``We have another opportunity here to watch Tui and Brad and see, again, what they look like, operating the team against an opponent outside of practice,'' Mangini said. ``This is an important viewing for us in terms of that.''
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