The New York Jets kick off their pre-season schedule tonight on the road against the Houston Texans. A few key starters won’t be suiting up including Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, and Plaxico Burress. Backup quarterback Mark Brunell also won’t be playing because of a left finger injury. Beyond that, the starters are expected to play for about a quarter.
On offense, Rob Turner and Vladimir Ducasse will both get extended work in replacing Mangold and Moore. Obviously there is some concern with having two backups protecting your quarterback, especially with somebody like Mario Williams on the opposing defense. Yet, Turner has a decent amount of experience from the past couple of years and Ducasse needs an opportunity to grow, so he can hopefully reach the potential the Jets saw in him when they selected him in the second round.
Derrick Mason will start in place of Burress. Yet, most eyes will likely be on rookie Jeremy Kerely who raised a ton of eyebrows at camp with his playmaking ability. He will work in the slot as the number three receiver with the first unit and should also see plenty of work with the number twos. Don’t be surprised to see Mark Sanchez rely on Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes early in the game, as he gets into a rhythm. I wouldn’t expect to see much of LaDainian Tomlinson or even Shonn Greene tonight, as Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell should get the lion’s share of the work in the backfield.
Without Brunell playing, rookie Greg McElroy will play the majority of the game at quarterback. The Jets are hoping he can develop into their long term backup, so it will be interesting to see how handles himself in extended action tonight.
On defense, I will be keeping an eye on Kyle Wilson to see if he shows any progress from his difficult rookie season. He should see action both in the nickel package with the first unit and then on the outside with the number twos.The Jets are counting on him to replace Drew Coleman this year and provide depth to Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Rookie first round pick Muhammad WIlkerson will also be getting the start and has impressed thus far in camp. Hopefully he can improve the push the Jets get out of their front line. Third round pick Kenrick Ellis will also see a good amount of action at nose tackle tonight.
Undrafted free agent Nick Bellore has been one of the biggest stories in camp and will get the chance to see a heavy amount of reps on both defense at linebacker and on special teams. Another linebacker to watch is Jamaal Westerman who Rex Ryan has hyped up this camp as being an individual who could provide an improvement to the Jets inconsistent pass rush.
On special teams, Jeremy Kerley will be the primary kick and punt returner, while Joe McKnight and Kyle Wilson should also both get opportunities.
Overall, it would be nice to see the first team offense move the ball with some consistency. Under Ryan, the offense has generally lagged a little behind the defense at this time of the year so with Sanchez now entering his third year, hopefully that will begin to change. On defense, an improved pass rush led by Wilkerson and Westerman would be the most encouraging thing to see.