The New York Jets host the Atlanta Falcons in the their pre-season home opener tonight. What should you want to see? Glad you asked, as we provide a checklist below…
1. POINTS! – Points are good and required for you to win games in the NFL. The Jets offense was forced to play basically the entire game with Bryce Petty under center last week, which was unfair to both him and the offense (at least if you were expecting tons of production). Tonight, it sounds like starter Ryan Fitzpatrick will play around an entire half. We know what Fitzpatrick is at this point but the hope is he can get into rhythm with the first unit and complete a few passes that travel over 8-10 yards in the air. The running game looked solid last week, now let’s see signs of a competent, chain moving passing game to complement it.2. TACKLES! – Sloppy tackling is to be expected in pre-season openers but last week pushed it to the limit, particularly from the safety position. Many have assumed the Jets will automatically have a “great” defense in 2015 but how many positions can you truly feel 100% great about right now? Darrelle Revis. Damon Harrison. David Harris. Buster Skrine in the slot to an extent? Beyond that, Mo Wilkerson is hurt (but should be back soon), Shells fate is up in the air, Leonard Williams is a rookie (but improving). Both safeties have plenty to prove and are coming off tough seasons, Antonio Cromartie has had a tough summer and Demario Davis still hasn’t shown he can the take next step at inside linebacker. This defense can be very good, without question, but we need to see certain x-factors on the defense swing the right way and not struggle.
3. THE YOUNG PUPS – Lorenzo Mauldin and Williams showed flashes last week. Mauldin, in particular may be able to start on taking on more playing time than expected early in the season if he can continue to get after the quarterback. Bryce Petty had a tough debut but now has plenty of tape to learn from and should take some strides in the right direction. Jarvis Harrison was one of the better backup offensive linemen last week and could position himself to be Willie Colon’s primary backup.
4. WHO CAN PUSH? – A few players who may be able to push the incumbent in front of them for more playing time than expected: Mauldin (Calvin Pace). Joe Mays, with Erin Henderson hurt (Demario Davis). Jaiquawn Jarrett (Calvin Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist). Marcus Williams (Antonio Cromartie).
5. EVEN THOUGH IT IS THE PRE-SEASON – Will be fun to watch Darrelle Revis vs. Julio Jones and if the Jets pass rush can get after Matt Ryan at all. The Falcons also have Vic Beasley, who was a frequently rumored target of the Jets during draft season.6. KERLEY? – Will he receive any opportunities with the first unit or will the staff continue to look at Quincy Enunwa or maybe Shaq Evans in the three receiver sets?