The New York Jets kick off their four game 2017 preseason this Saturday night at home against the Tennessee Titans. What matters this preseason? Let’s break it down…
It’s The Quarterback, Stupid – The most important thing this preseason is the performance of Christian Hackenberg, the only quarterback on this roster with a theoretical chance of being “the guy” long term. Josh McCown is a glorified Game of Thrones Maester, Bryce Petty is a career third stringer who has already been knocked out of the “quarterback competition” in practice.
The discouraging thing to date is at best, Hackenberg has played even to McCown, a below average journeyman. The encouraging thing is that practice doesn’t matter all that much and if Hackenberg plays well in the preseason, nobody cares about what happens in camp. It still remains more than likely McCown will start week 1 but Hackenberg can put pressure on those plans and shorten his already tiny rope with a strong preseason.
What is a strong preseason? Complete somewhere around 60% of your passes. Throw more touchdowns than interceptions. Do not take unnecessary sacks and protect the football when you are sacked. Attack down the field and show signs of making a weak supporting cast better.
Who Caught That? – Do not expect to see much, if any, of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell this preseason. It will be the Elijah McGuire, Jordan Todman and Romar Morris show at running back. A few big games from Todman or Morris could help push Forte off the roster for a conditional 7th round pick to a running back desperate team (YOU NEED A BACK, JERRY!).
At receiver, expect a wide ranging rotation and wide open battle for targets behind Robby Anderson. Charone Peake, ArDarius Stewart and Jalin Marshall will get the first cracks but Chris Harper, Chad Hansen and Marquess Wilson are not far behind. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has been the star of the Jets offseason, now we need to see if it translates into games. Rookie tight end Jordan Leggett has also had a strong summer and should be in position for a higher than expected amount of targets due to Quincy Enunwa’s injury.
The battle for reps and targets at the skill positions is wide open. Whoever can string together a few good games will be looking at a large role in the early parts of the season.
Line Woes – The Jets offensive line has been beat to a pulp so far in training camp. Is that because Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are taking football seriously again and Leonard Williams is half man, half machine or is it just because they stink? Right tackle is an open battle between Brent Qvale (KWELI) and Brandon Shell. The left tackle will likely be Kelvin Beachum, who the Jets are praying finds his Pittsburgh form. The depth is fairly shaky outside of Ben Ijalana so happy feet for Hackenberg and Petty will have ugly consequences this August.
New Jack City – The shiny new safety duo finally will get to show out in a real game. Will Marcus Maye keep being a ball hawk? Can Jamal Adams live up to the excessive amounts of hype? These two will play more than most starters so they are comfortable as possible come week 1 against the now Sammy Watkins-less Buffalo Bills. Elsewhere in the secondary, Juston Burris will have the first chance to grab a starting role on the outside in the Jets nickel, with Daryl Roberts and Marcus Williams also in the mix.
Oh, The Linebackers – Outside of Darron Lee (who needs to show signs of life), the position is wide open. Lorenzo Mauldin has been hurt and quiet so far in camp, opening the door for reps for Dylan Donahue, Frank Beltre and Freddie Bishop. This feels like a position where there will not really be “starters” but rather just a large rotation of different situational players, maybe outside of Jordan Jenkins who is looking to build on a promising rookie year.
Can We Get A Return? – Lucky Whitehead. Frankie Hammond. Romar Morris. Will somebody break one? The Jets special teams have been a mess for years. Lachlan Edwards still needs to prove he was worth a draft pick. Chandler Catanzaro is barely holding off Ross Martin. This unit needs to show signs of life.
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