The New York Jets did not have the most inspiring pre-season debut. Considering the vanilla game plans, last second adjustment required at quarterback and players out of the line-up, it is not worth getting too worked up about in August. However, let’s take a closer look at the running back situation, offensive trends and how the rookies performed.
As we’ve been saying throughout the off-season, the Jets new additions at running back were good for depth but this remains the Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell show. They are the team’s most talented running backs and are going to be leaned on even more heavily now with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. With the volume of opportunities likely presented to them, both could be looking at career years. Below Ivory shows good vision and foot quickness, allowing him to avoid a busted Willie Colon block and turn it into a 6 yard gain. Ivory projects to being the team’s 1A back and workhorse, particularly on early downs as the Jets look to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick out of third and longs.
Later in the game, Powell showed nice patience and a little more giddy up than we are used to seeing on this 19 yard gain. He will not see a shortage of opportunities on third downs, as the team’s primary pass catching back and spelling Ivory for a few series each half. There is a wide gap between him, Zac Stacy and Daryl Richardson right now.
James Carpenter had his struggles in Seattle but has looked solid next to Nick Mangold all summer. This is a terrific block on a 4th and 1 that allowed the Jets to move the chains. Willie Colon may be a liability but the Jets should be able to run frequently and effectively behind the Carpenter/Mangold duo. Unless Brian Winters or Jarvis Harrison comes on strong in the next few weeks, Colon is going to be the week 1 starter.
Before I move to the rookies, a quick thought on what is happening with Jeremy Kerley. The Jets began camp playing Devin Smith and Chris Owusu in front of him in three receiver looks. When the two of them went down, they moved Quincy Enunwa into the first team three receiver set, while Kerley continued to work with the twos. So what is going on?
First off, Brandon Marshall and to a lesser extent Eric Decker are going to spend a decent amount of time in the slot this season. The Jets may want to get a speedier receiver like Smith or Owusu on the outside to help clear up the short and intermediate passing game when they move one of their big two to the inside. Second, the Jets know what they have with Kerley. They needed to get players like Smith or Owusu quickly up to speed to see what they are capable of. Post-injury, the same applies to Enunwa. However, Enunwa did receive all his work in the slot versus Detroit, not a position that necessarily fits his skill set.
Yes, there is something to what Todd Bowles said about wanting a bigger receiver inside to block. However, this seems a little bit like a misdirection. Receivers can be competent blockers regardless of their size since their blocking mostly consists of shielding or “playing basketball” with a slot corner or safety. The difference between Enunwa and Kerley blocking is negligible and Kerley is a substantially better overall receiver at this part of his career. Again, the Jets know what they have in Kerley, while this is sink or swim time for Enunwa. The lack of reps for Kerley has been noticeable but I still wouldn’t write him off as having a very specific, useful role in the slot for this team come week 1.On to the rookies. Bryce Petty struggled in his debut, which is to be expected. He played overly cautious and looked tentative when the pass rush got anywhere near him. Below, DeVier Posey does a nice job converting his route against Cover 2 but Petty badly misses on him on one of the few times he tried to attack down the field. Petty should improve with more experience but it is beyond risky to have him as the number two quarterback until Geno Smith returns healthy.
Leonard Williams had a relatively quiet debut. He showed good burst off the ball but his lack of balance allows him to get pushed past the play. Williams’ job will get easier when he is playing with Muhammad Wilkerson and eventually Sheldon Richardson. The physical skills are clearly there, he just needs time to adjust to the speed/strength of the pro game.
Lorenzo Mauldin showed a tremendous motor in his NFL debut. Yet played a bit reckless, leading to a missed sack and this roughing the passer penalty. This was a shaky call but the referees are sensitive to hands anywhere near the quarterback’s face. Regardless, Mauldin shows good fight off the edge here and may be pushing Calvin Pace for playing time sooner, rather than later.
Dexter McDougle was beat for a touchdown early in the second half but responded with a pair of break ups, showing a good knack for the ball. He has not played much football the past two years so there is going to be some major rust but you were able to see flashes of why the Jets took him in the 2014 3rd round.
One final note defensively, it was a little concerning how much better both Erin Henderson and Joe Mays looked than Demario Davis. I’m aware they were not playing with the starters but it is definitely something to keep an eye on. Also, the angles Marcus Gilchrist took on a few plays (including this touchdown below) could be dangerous alongside Calvin Pryor who already struggles with the same thing.