Turn On The Jets Offensive Film Breakdown – McElroy’s 10 Dropbacks

Breaking down Greg McElroy’s 10 dropbacks in Jets/Cardinals game this past Sunday

We’ve been slacking a bit with our film breakdowns the past few weeks here at TOJ, so we are hitting you with a double dose in the next 24 hours. In this article, I will look at all of Greg McElroy’s dropbacks from his first NFL action this past Sunday. Chris Gross will also provide his regular terrific defensive film breakdown shortly after.

On to McElroy…

1. 2nd and 6 at ARZ 43 yard line – Incomplete To Stephen Hill – The Jets ran a stop and go on each side of the formation out of a standard 2 wide receiver, one tight end look. Jeremy Kerley was out to the right and Hill was out to the left with Cumberland working over the middle. Pre-snap Kerley faced press coverage from Patrick Peterson and Hill had William Gay playing about 7 yards off him. The Cardinals had a one-high safety look, with three linebackers dropping into coverage in the middle of the field, taking away the deep in-route from Cumberland. McElroy makes the right read here but instead of floating the ball deep, he should have realized that Hill ran a poor route and didn’t trick the corner at all with his hesitation. When he saw Gay running 2 yards out in front of him, he should have thrown the ball on a line to Hill’s back shoulder for what would have been an easy completion. Instead he floats the deep ball, which is nearly intercepted. Good read but bad route from Hill and poor throw from McElroy, although understandable considering it was his first NFL pass.

2. 3rd and 6 at ARZ 43 yard line – 8 yard completion to Stephen Hill – The Jets ran tight twins to each side of the formation with Jeff Cumberland in the slot to the left with Stephen Hill outside him. Hill runs a 8 yard speed out with Cumberland running the flag route from the slot, a common route combination. Chaz Schilens runs a short drag route from the slot on the right side of the formation. McElroy made a smart, decisive read as soon as the corner and safety on Hill’s side backed up a step. He didn’t throw a perfect ball but he put it where Hill could make a play on it, which Hill did…elevating to make a very nice catch as he took a big hit from the corner. Well done all around.

3. 2nd and 7 at ARZ 32 yard line – 3 yard run – Jets ran a standard play-action bootleg with Cumberland as the primary option in the flat and Konrad Reuland dragging across as the secondary option. Both were blanketed from the get-go. McElroy recognized this and showed zero hesitation to tuck the ball away and take-off for a short gain. He also drew a 15 yard penalty for taking a hit out of bounds. It is unfair to compare him to Mark Sanchez with a such a small sample size, but this is a play Sanchez frequently hesitates on (at least in 2012), pumping the ball and either takes a sack or throws it away instead of just taking the short running gain.

4. 3rd and 1 at ARZ 1 yard line – 1 yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland – Not much to say here, the Jets completely fooled Arizona on the play-fake and McElroy got a great seal block from Brandon Moore to give him all day on the rollout. He could have ran it in but instead floated it to a completely wide open Jeff Cumberland for a touchdown. Easy.

5. 3rd and 6 at ARZ 35 yard line – 2 yard completion to Kahlil Bell – This was either a poor play-call or poor execution from the Jets wide receivers, as the primary target appeared to be Jeremy Kerley on a short crossing pattern. However, Chaz Schilens also runs a short cross and settles in the middle of the field, clogging up the zone and making it easy for the Arizona linebackers to cover both players. McElroy steps up in the pocket and dumps it off to Bell, who promptly gets hit and fumbles. Considering what the coverage offered, this was the right decision by McElroy and a heady play to swing the ball to Bell instead of trying to run for the first down himself (which he wouldn’t have been able to).

6. 2nd and 11 at NYJ 25 yard line – 5 yard completion to Jeremy Kerley – Another encouraging quick read and throw from McElroy. Kerley ran a speed out from the slot, while Chaz Schilens ran a slant from split end. The linebacker dropped and safety closed, making the window tight for the slant so McElroy hit the speed out…not an easy throw and one that is particularly encouraging considering his reputation for a weak arm. This was also a very nice catch by Kerley.

7. 3rd and 6 at NYJ 30 – Incomplete pass – There was clearly some kind of miscommunication here. McElroy rolls out to the right and all receivers run routes that appear to expect him to roll out to the left (inside receiver out left runs a wheel/stop route, outside right receiver runs drag across the middle) – A safe guess is that McElroy rolled the wrong way but it is impossible to know definitively.

8. 2nd and 7 at ARZ 47 yard line – 4 yard run – The Jets again roll McElroy to the right and he quickly sees his primary options covered up well by the Arizona defense (A Stephen Hill backside drag and a Jeff Cumberland out). He might have been able to throw it quickly to Bilal Powell in the flat but that likely would have resulted in a 4-5 yard gain as well. Considering the coverage, it is hard to fault McElroy’s decision to run here.

9. 3rd and 3 at ARZ 43 yard line – PENALTY – Illegal Contact – We see the good and bad of McElroy on this play and he caught a big break on the illegal contact call which probably shouldn’t have been made. McElroy made a smart protection check pre-snap to bring Jeff Cumberland into the formation to pick-up the outside free rusher. However, after Hill beats the press coverage, McElroy needs to throw the ball on a line before the high safety breaks over the top. He instead floats the ball and it is intercepted. This should have been a big play to Hill. Beyond that, he also has Jeremy Kerley on the backside dig for a big gain.

10. 3rd and 9 at ARZ 37 yard line – 13 yard completion to Jeremy Kerley – The throw of the day from McElroy and the catch of the day from Kerley. They executed a back-shoulder fade against one of the league’s top corners in Patrick Peterson. This required perfect timing and placement from McElroy and a pretty one-handed juggling grab from Kerley. A big-boy conversion in a big-boy spot.

Overall, it was an encouraging debut from McElroy. He wasn’t without his mistakes but considering it was his first NFL action and he received barely any work with the first offense during the week, this was impressive. Before you enshrine him in Canton, remember Mark Sanchez went 18/31 for 272 yards with a TD in his first NFL start.

New York Jets – McElroy Brings Calm To Offense

TJ Rosenthal on the calm brought to the New York Jets offense by Greg McElroy

Surprise hero Greg McElroy described himself as an even keeled player to reporters after the Jets 7-6 comeback win over Arizona. During a post game press room scene that rarely calls for the thoughts of any third string quarterback. With second stringer Tim Tebow out nursing broken ribs, and embattled starter Mark Sanchez floundering late in the third quarter, head coach Rex Ryan finally felt the time was right to make a change. McElroy then delivered a sense of calm to a club in dire need of some no nonsense guidance.

Since the Jets last embarrassed themselves, on national television November 22nd against their hated rivals the Patriots 49-19, in a game symbolized by Sanchez crashing into guard Brandon Moore’s backside during a wild :52 second, three score storm that engulfed the Jets, the wings had begun to come off the plane.

Soon after the Thanksgiving thrashing, drama unfolded surrounding whether Tim Tebow should have suited up with broken ribs, and when exactly the club first knew about the injury. Fireman Ed then stepped down as King “Superfan” after being harassed by his own Jet faithful for wearing a Sanchez jersey in support of the struggling star. Days later a video showing Jets fans verbally abusing the team as they entered the tunnel down 35-3 at halftime, went viral. Sparking LB Bart Scott to respond by attacking the same fans who Scott said, probably didn’t even get picked in dodgeball as kids.

These incidents provide a sample size of what has been a season full of unpredictable events that officially began back in March. When QB Drew Stanton was signed to back up Sanchez, as the team secretly chased Peyton Manning. Only to end up instead with a motivated Tebow,  jettisoned by Denver as Manning signed with the Broncos, not the Jets. Stanton soon angrily exited.

The week long insanity leaving the world’s most polarizing sports figure in America, just one play away from taking over the starting job. As the unassuming McElroy quietly worked on his arm strength and prepared to earn a job behind Tebow in training camp.

When McElroy began warming up on the sidelines yesterday after yet another tipped pass incompletion thrown by Sanchez helped grow the boos for Sanchez to a deafening level, MetLife Stadium grew energized for the first time since week one’s 48-28 defeat of the Bills. It didn’t take long for McElroy, the “most popular player” on the field to deliver some level headed decision making to a team only behind 3-0, and not known for the trait.

First McElroy shrewdly drew illegal contact from an oncoming Cardinal defender out of bounds. Forcing a 15 yard late hit penalty on the Arizona defense, clearly anxious to welcome the new guy with a shot to remember. A few clutch third down completions later, McElroy rolled out on the goal line and waited for the right time to lob a TD pass to Jeff Cumberland. In a play that became the game winner.

The 5-7-29 yards stat line was beyond modest. The limited tasks asked off him were less complicated than even the ones given to Sanchez during his first two game n the ones given to Sanchez during his first two game managing seasons as a Jet. What Greg McElroy contributed the most during his brief work had to do with disposition, not numbers.

Finally the Jets had a leader on the field, whose only history of drama on a team that seemingly finds one daily, took place when he publicly called out of the Jets locker room as dysfunctional after the team’s 2011 crash. Aside from that incident, the second year pro’s contributions to the Jets circus has been as nothing more than as an observer.

Ryan’s decision to turn to McElroy, the only healthy backup available, gave the Jets offense a chance to simply focus on making plays without the hoopla that surrounds the other two GQ quarterbacks. The ground game kicked into another gear when McElroy was calling the shots. Receivers better known for dropping balls began hanging onto them.  Lineman appeared to be getting off the ball faster. The home crowd started to sound like one, after weeks of being rendered lifeless thanks to the poor execution the home team was displaying on the field.

Winning teams have field generals who lessen the overall anxiety and can forget mistakes instantaneously. McElroy’s success in leading the Jets away from what would have been a second straight disaster, may not help to anoint him as the franchise starter from this point on. The relaxed nature of his relief effort though, should be a wake up call for the Jets. An organization that better start to understand that hype and media attention can only be part of the equation provided that the on field pilot of the plane owns a steady hand and unfettered mind. One that features a short memory, and the ability to move beyond mistakes rather than compound them

Sanchez Breakdown – A Swan Song for the Jets Quarterback

Rob Celletti breaks down the play of both New York Jets quarterbacks yesterday

The mob at MetLife Stadium got its wish.

Rex Ryan had seen enough, and rightly pulled Mark Sanchez out of yesterday’s game in the third quarter, unofficially ending this quarterback’s reign as starter for the Jets. Sanchez was given every chance, if not the support that he needed, to keep his job and he failed. The shame of this situation is that had Rex Ryan made the move earlier this season, Sanchez might have had an opportunity to respond and win his job back. Ryan didn’t make that move because the man behind Sanchez on the depth chart – initials, T.T. – is not a viable NFL quarterback.

Greg McElroy might not be either, but he provided what most backup quarterbacks provide a languishing team: a spark. All of a sudden, the Jets were exploding off the ball, opening holes for their running backs, and making catches in traffic that they weren’t making for their beleaguered starter. Which is not to say that Sanchez wasn’t absolutely god-awful on Sunday. He most certainly was. I feel confident saying that had he stayed in the game the Jets probably would have lost.

The fact remains that the Jets played harder and better and still only managed to score one touchdown (and turned the football over once, which could have been twice if not for a pretty lucky call that went their way). They are still a bad football team and Greg McElroy doesn’t change that. Luckily, they were playing a team with an even worse quarterback situation than their own. I’m amazed that Ryan Lindley made it out of high school playing football. He made Dave Brown look like Dan Fouts.

I have been a noted supporter of Mark Sanchez, and not for any real reason other than I wanted the Jets to win a lot of football games. In order to do that, you need “the guy” at the sport’s most important position. At times in 2009 and through most of 2010, Sanchez appeared to be “the guy”. However, when adversity struck, Sanchez handled it poorly. It affected his play. What Sanchez needed was some tough love, which his coach was reluctant to provide. He needed to lose his job, even for just a few plays, but not in Week 13 of what’s probably a lost season. It probably had to happen during one of the many blowouts that the Jets have suffered this season. But now, Greg McElroy is going to start the rest of the way in 2012, and he should. The Jets need to find out what they have in order to properly assess (ha! The idea of this front office assessing its roster properly is laughable) their quarterback situation going forward. So let’s talk a bit about the Mac Attack.

What struck me from my seat in MetLife Stadium – albeit a seat that requires the game to be viewed through a telescope – was McElroy’s physical similarity to a former Jets quarterback: Chad Pennington. I am not in any way saying that McElroy will be capable of replicating the success that pre-injury Pennington had – he’s thrown 7 NFL passes. But McElroy’s stature, mannerisms, questionable arm-strength, hell, even the way he handed the ball off, all brought back memories of those early 2000s Jets teams. I did like that he took a shot at a 1 on 1 matchup down the field right away, and was certainly impressed by the back-shoulder throw to Jeremy Kerley on third down, which essentially iced the game.

McElroy showed some mobility, and the Jets rolled him out more frequently in a quarter-plus than they rolled Sanchez out in the past two seasons combined. He didn’t appear to be confused by anything he saw from Arizona.

Look, Greg McElroy was a 7th round draft pick. More than likely, he’ll be nothing more than a backup-level NFL quarterback. And really, that’s the saddest part of today if you’re a Jets fan: the team is once again back to square one at its most important position. Very rarely do franchise quarterbacks fall out of the sky and into your lap. They need to be scouted, drafted, and developed for the modern game.

The Jets failed Mark Sanchez just as much as Sanchez failed them. And now they’re starting over. Less than two years removed from an AFC Championship Game, that’s just depressing, regardless of the excitement Greg McElroy provided yesterday.

TOJ’s Top 50 New York Jets Countdown: 40-50

Turn On The Jets counts down the top 50 New York Jets currently on the roster, starting with numbers 40-50

Frustrated and confused after seeing the NFL’s Top 100 player list? TOJ was as well. Due to that, we have decided to rank the current New York Jets on the roster from 50 all the way down to 1. Along the way, we will be classifying the players into the following five categories:

  • Bottom of the Roster (strictly a depth and developmental player)
  • Middle Class (Situational player, spot starter)
  • Quality Starter (Capable starting player)
  • Red Chip (Swiping this term from Michael Lombardi, an above average stater/borderline Pro-Bowler)
  • Blue Chip (Another swipe from Lombardi, an elite player at his position)

Just missed

  • Tanner Purdum – Long snapper goes 53 on a 53 man roster.
  • Nick Folk – On the thought that Josh Brown will win the kicking battle
  • Hayden Smith – Practice squad bound in TOJ’s opinion
  • Garret McIntyre – Started at times last year…won’t make team this year
  • Austin Howard – Went with Stephon Heyer over him as primary backup at tackle

BOTTOM OF THE ROSTER

50. TJ Conley, Punter – An average punter at best, who will likely be challenged at some point in training camp by a  free agent signing. He is no better than 50/50 to make the roster at this point and if he does, must be more consistent than he was in 2010.

49. Vladimir Ducasse, Guard/Tackle – Ducasse was easily beat out for the starting guard position in 2009 and when called into duty as a reserve tackle last season looked completely overwhelmed. At this point, it looks like his ceiling is a swing backup at guard and tackle…fairly disappointing for a 2nd round pick.

48. Bilal Powell, Running Back – Looked plodding and mediocre in both the pre-season and when given an opportunity in the regular season in 2010. It wouldn’t be a shock to anybody if rookie Terrance Ganaway beat him out on the depth chart this year.

47. Antonio Allen, Safety – A good value pick for the Jets in the seventh round this season. Allen will have a tough time seeing the field in 2012 with LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith in front of him on the depth chart. However, he has the skill set to project to being the team’s long term strong safety.

46. Terrance Ganaway, Running Back – An intriguing sixth round pick from this year’s draft. A power runner, with experience in the option, which could get him some looks when Tim Tebow is under center. With a strong pre-season, could work himself into getting some weekly carries behind Shonn Greene.

45. Greg McElroy, Quarterback – Showed promise in the pre-season and has the intangibles to be a capable NFL backup. He looks to be a poor man’s Chad Pennington, with limited arm strength but very high intelligence and good decision making skills.

44. Josh Baker, Tight End/H-Back – Worked his way on to the field at the end of last season as a H-Back and finished with 3 receptions and a touchdown against the Giants. Baker is a natural pass catcher, who is versatile enough to line up at tight end, H-Back, and fullback. It will be interesting to see if he sticks on the roster and how Tony Sparano uses him, if he does.

43. Josh Bush, Safety – A sixth round pick who is the only natural free safety that projects to make the Jets roster. Defensive Backs coach Dennis Thurman has already pegged Bush as the team’s fourth safety, which means he should get on the field in certain packages.

42. Ellis Lankster, Corner – A special teams player last year, who now appears poised to take over the fourth cornerback role on defense. In Rex Ryan’s scheme that will get him on the field a decent amount of time. The Jets clearly have faith in him for now, as they haven’t signed free agents like Drew Coleman or Chris Johnson who could have easily filled the fourth corner role.

41. Caleb Schlauderaff, Guard – The Jets traded for him last pre-season and Mike Tannenbaum randomly loves mentioning him all the time in press conferences as a developing player. He projects to being the top backup at guard and center

40. Ricky Sapp, Linebacker/Defensive End – Added to the practice squad last season, he has impressed this off-season and could be a factor in pass rushing situations. Sapp was a fifth round pick of the Eagles in 2010.

Check back tomorrow for our Friday 12 pack and for players 30-40

Jets vs. Eagles: Battle Of The Backups Preview

Ah, the annual pre-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles aka the battle of backups provides our last look at many New York Jets scrapping to make the roster as reserves. Here are a few players to keep an eye on tonight before the countdown can begin to week one (how about 7 days to Saints/Packers?)

Greg McElroy – The rookie quarterback has impressed all pre-season and will get the start under center tonight. Mark Brunell will return to the backup role when the regular season starts but you have to wonder if Mark Sanchez were out for an extended period of time, if the Jets would consider handing the reigns off to McElroy instead of the 65 year old Brunell.

Muhammad Wilkerson – It has been a good, not great pre-season for the Jets first round pick. He was ejected last game for getting into a scuffle with Brandon Jacobs and still hasn’t generated much pressure on the quarterback, despite being solid against the run. He should log a ton of playing time tonight, so hopefully he can take advantage of the Eagles backups.

Nick Bellore/Garret McIntyre – A pair of undrafted rookie linebackers who have a very good shot to make the roster after strong training camps and pre-seasons. The Jets could be risking it by going so young with their backups but if they are the best players on the roster after the starters, they deserve a spot on the final 53.

Aaron Maybin – He needs to make a play or two to intrigue the coaching staff enough to keep him around for a longer look. The speed is there but Maybin is easily pushed around because of his lack of size.

Joe McKnight – It has been a strong all around pre-season for the Jets second year running back, who could use one more solid performance to demonstrate that he should be involved with the first offense when the regular season starts. McKnight could bring a much needed speed dimension to the Jets running back group.

Jeff Cumberland – The second year tight end missed last week with an injury but should be back. I’d be shocked if the Jets didn’t keep him on the final 53 because of his size and potential but he needs a good performance to lock himself in.

New York Jets: Pre-Season Week 2 Rookie Report

A week by week look throughout the pre-season at how the New York Jets rookies are performing

Muhammad Wilkerson – (1 tackle) – Another relatively nondescript performance from the Jets first round pick. However, Wilkerson did look a little more comfortable at the point of attack and seems to be holding his own out there. He has looked solid against the run but it would be nice to see break through one of these weeks and get after the quarterback a little.

Kenrick Ellis – (1 tackle, 1 tackle for loss) – Ellis surprisingly didn’t get the start for an injured Sione Pouha, with Martin Tevaseu stepping in instead. Yet, Ellis was still productive during his reps, even though the bulk of them came against the Bengals backups. He certainly has the look of somebody who should be a contributor in the Jets defensive line rotation.

Bilal Powell – (9 carries, 22 yards, 1 reception, 2 yards) – A bit of a let down after an encouraging debut. Joe McKnight took a big step towards locking down the number three running back job by outplaying Powell against the Bengals. Powell had a couple of chances to pound the ball in after Brashton Satele’s interception but couldn’t get in the end-zone.

Jeremy Kerley – (1 reception, 5 yards) – Kerley hasn’t translated a big training camp into a big pre-season yet. He had difficulty handling a punt and only managed 1 reception for 5 yards, despite getting extended work with the first offense. He does still look dangerous in the open field and was a tackle away from breaking a big kick return.

Greg McElroy – (6/9, 52 yards, 1 TD) – McElroy was again impressive as Mark Sanchez’s top backup. Despite lacking big time physical tools, he does play confident and seems to have a good grasp of the offense. He did a nice job executing a play action fake down by the red-zone, which led to a short touchdown pass to Joe McKnight.

Scotty McKnight – Another night without a recorded stat for McKnight, who is starting to look more like a practice squad player. Patrick Turner has looked better at receiver and Logan Payne has more value on special teams, while also getting an occasional rep with the starting offense.

Out of the undrafted free agents, Garret McIntyre and Nick Bellore both recorded two tackles each at linebacker. Receivers Dan DePalma and Mike Campbell didn’t pull in any receptions.

Offensive Injuries Concerning For Jets

Both quarterback Mark Brunell (calf) and wide receiver Derrick Mason (knee) left the practice field today and are now questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Considering the Jets depth issues at both positions, these injuries are nothing to minimize. Greg McElroy was encouraging at times in his pre-season debut but you don’t want a rookie 7th round pick being a snap away from playing. Honestly, I don’t want Brunell a snap away from playing either and would like to see the Jets coax Marc Bulger out of retirement or maybe sign Brodie Croyle. Either way, the Jets depth at quarterback is seriously shaky.

At wide receiver, Plaxico Burress is still returning from an ankle injury and Jeremy Kerley is only a rookie. Mark Sanchez needs as many reps as possible with his new receiving core to gain the necessary chemistry. However, a Mason injury could give more reps to young players like Logan Payne, Patrick Turner, Scotty McKnight and Danny DePalma as they battle for the fifth receiver spot. All of them have shown potential at times, and the spot remains wide open.

Injuries at an increased rate were to be expected with this messed up off-season, however quarterback and receiver are areas the Jets especially need to stay healthy at.

New York Jets: Pre-Season Week 1 Rookie Report

A week by week look throughout the pre-season on how the New York Jets rookies are performing

Muhammad Wilkerson(2 tackles, 1 solo) – Wilkerson’s most notable play of the night was an offsides penalty but it is hard to expect too much on the stat sheet out of a rookie 3-4 defensive end going as a starter in his first action. He generally held his own up front, wasn’t pushed around and did get a decent push of his own on a few plays. Wilkerson certainly looked like he belonged out there and by the time September 11th comes around, he should be ready to be a solid contributor up front.

Kenrick Ellis(2 tackles, 1 solo) – Going against the backups, Ellis was more active around the football than Wilkerson despite having an identical stat sheet. He also batted a pass up in the air, which was intercepted by linebacker Josh Mauga.

Bilal Powell(9 carries 25 yards, 3 receptions 27 yards) – His yards per carry don’t indicate it but Powell showed good burst and vision in his performance, and now with Joe McKnight dealing with a concussion could have a chance to seize the #3 running back job. Powell was particularly impressive catching the ball out of the backfield, and nearly scored on a screen pass from Greg McElroy.

Jeremy Kerley – (3 receptions, 20 yards) – Kerley had such massive expectations coming in after impressing at camp, that any thing short of 150 yards receiving and two touchdowns could feel like a disappointment. Yet, the rookie wide receiver looked good on both offense and special teams as a returner. He is difficult to bring down and has good vision.

Greg McElroy (23/39, 208 yards, 1 touchdown) – McElroy was very impressive his debut last night. He took every rep after Mark Sanchez left, was beat up behind a makeshift offensive line, and rebounded from a shaky start. McElroy clearly lacks arm strength but showed accuracy on the intermediate routes and plenty of toughness. The Jets just may have found their long term backup for Sanchez.

Scotty McKnight – A night without any recorded stats for a rookie wide receiver isn’t a good thing. McKnight didn’t record a reception or make any tackles on special teams. He has an uphill battle to make the team following a strong offensive performance by Patrick Turner and a quality special teams effort from Logan Payne. Undrafted free agent  wide receiver Dan DePalma also had a good showing as a punt returner and on the coverage units.

Out of the undrafted free agents, outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre recorded two sacks and has a decent shot to stick on the final 53 man roster considering the Jets depth chart at linebacker. Tight end Josh Baker flashed very good hands and finished with 3 receptions for 45 yards. Undrafted free agent wide receiver Michael Campbell had a killer drop late in the game, which drew a few expletives out of Rex Ryan.

Jets vs. Texans: A Closer Look

The “Jets” fell short 20-16 but the preseason is never about winning. The primary goals are to avoid major injuries to key players, establishing some rhythm among starting units, while hopefully developing a few diamonds in the rough to add to the mix. So how did the Jets really fare in those categories last night? Let’s take a look –

MAJOR INJURIES:  The offensive line suffered a depth setback when backup center Rob Turner broke his leg. The Jets must add players to this unit. Damien Woody anyone? Joe McKnight may have suffered a concussion. LB Bart Scott rolled his ankle and left after the first play. The brightside? No season enders hit any starters.

RYTHYM: Mark Sanchez looked sharp in establishing a connection with both Santonio Holmes and Derrick Mason. The starters saw extremely limited time on both sides of the ball. RB Shonn Greene ran hard and found space in the second level during his attempts. The defense was not really tested. Texan stars Andre Johnson and Arian Foster sat out the game. Kyle Wilson in his second year, was in better position to play the ball than we remember him being all of last year.

DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH: WR Jeremy Kerley has had a notable camp. The rookie WR was heavily involved throughout last night, showing good hands, quick feet, and an elusive ability in traffic. LB Josh Mauga replaced Scott and was around the ball constantly, with a sack and INT capping his efforts.

TE Jeff Cumberland displayed physical skill in the passing game, with consistent receptions and running after the catch. This furthering the excitement of Jets fans who envision a tight end heavy passing game due to the arrival of former Colts guru Tom Moore on the coaching staff.

RB Bilal Powell replaced McKnight and impressed us with his footwork and ability to wait patiently for his blockers before attacking the line of scrimmage.

Backup QB Greg McElroy rebounded from a sluggish start in his three quarters of action.The former Alabama product sped up his release time and displayed sharpness on short to mid range routes as the game progressed. He also fell victim to two deep ball drops, including one that could’ve won the game for the Jets late in the fourth.

Thoughts On Jets vs. Texans: Depth Concerns Remain

A look back at the Jets opening pre-season game, a 20-16 loss to the Houston Texans —

Mark Sanchez was an efficient 6/7 for 43 yards. His only incompletion was on a drop from Matthew Mulligan (teaching Sanchez a valuable lesson, to avoid throwing to a backup blocking tight end). The Jets didn’t take many risks with him, which was probably a smart thing since their offensive line was getting beat like a drum, including Sanchez being sacked twice before he even had a chance to finish his drop. Sanchez got both Santonio Holmes and Derrick Mason involved with a few catches each, although he didn’t target Dustin Keller at all.

Shonn Greene looked very good, and crisp with 5 caries for 32 yards despite the “starting” offensive line struggling in pass protection. The main story coming out of this game on the offensive side of the football will be the concern about depth on the line. Rob Turner left with what appeared to be a relatively serious ankle injury and Vladimir Ducasse was beat twice for sacks, including one that resulted in a fumble and one that resulted in an injury (Turner). Those are the Jets top two backups and they currently have nothing but practice squad fodder behind them.

On defense, the starting unit held Houston to only 24 yards. Bart Scott left after the first play with a rolled ankle but appeared to be fine. Josh Mauga filled in admirably with a tackle for a loss and then a sack the following play. He also had an interception later in the game, taking a major step to solidify himself as a top backup linebacker on the roster. Kyle Wilson had a nice play on a third down to force Houston off the field but beyond that it was just another efficient night in the office for the Jets defense. Eric Smith did get beat by Owen Daniels in what could have been a big play if Matt Schaub was more accurate, which was somewhat concerning. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more and more Brodney Pool on passing downs.

The second unit had their struggles initially, going against Matt Leinart of all people. They were continually fooled on the play-action bootleg and didn’t generate much pressure. I would have liked to see more out of Jamaal Westerman and some of the other reserve outside linebackers. Later in the game, Kenrick Ellis was very active and batted a pass up in the air which was intercepted. Marcus Dixon and Ropati Pitoitua also got a good push up front throughout the night, showing that the Jets defensive line depth could be better than expected. The backup corners and safeties were inconsistent and didn’t make as many plays on the ball as you’d like to see.

Similarly on offense, the backups started slowly but picked it up as the game went on. Greg McElroy showed a lot tonight by bouncing back from an ugly first few first series to put together an impressive overall night (22/39, 186 yards, 1 TD) even though he couldn’t finish the final drive to give the Jets a win. He stood in the pocket all night and was beat up behind a makeshift offensive line but kept putting the ball up down the field, even though his arm strength isn’t the greatest he could develop into this team’s long term backup.

Jeff Cumberland had a terrific night with 6 receptions for 77 yards. He is a big target, with soft hands and very good speed for a tight end. Brian Schottenheimer needs to find a way to involve him in some packages with the first unit. Patrick Turner used his size to catch a touchdown in the red-zone and provides potential Plaxico insurance. Jeremy Kerley didn’t have the monster night everyone expected but was still good after the catch and on returns.

Both Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell were productive. Powell was particularly impressive on a 19 yard reception out of the backfield. He showed good burst and a natural ability to run north and south.

Overall, it was about what you would expect out of a first pre-season game. The Jets have their home opener this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.