New York Jets: Is It a Big Deal? Preseason Week 1 Edition

David Aitken breaks down whether certain storylines around the New York Jets are actually a big deal or not

Football is back. They may just be glorified scrimmages, but preseason football sometimes does offer glimpses into future impact players and causes for concern. Of course, there are also plenty of preseason performances that end up seeming meaningless once the real deal begins in September. Each week I’ll grab some of the key talking points from the latest preseason game and argue whether it really is something to be talking about.

Christian Hackenberg does not play a snap in the first game.

Not a big deal. Those hoping to get the Christian Hackenberg adventure underway last Thursday were left disappointed. The logic against the decision to sit him is obvious – how do you not play a healthy second round pick in a preseason game?  Normally I would agree with this, but Christian Hackenberg was not a typical second round pick. When players are drafted in round two, they’re usually amongst the very best players in college football. Christian Hackenberg, clearly, was not. He simply wasn’t a good player his last two seasons at Penn State period. Thus he’s the unique situation of a player that while drafted highly has zero immediate expectations from his coaching staff. In Hackenberg the Jets drafted a broken player and they know this. The only thing on the mind of the coaching staff is where Hackenberg will be a few years from now, and the best way to sculpt him into that player. In the minds of Bowles and Gialey, it’s baby steps. If Hackenberg is ever going to figure it out, they’re probably right.

Lorenzo Mauldin has a lackluster first outing as a starter. 

Getting worried. Lorenzo Mauldin being handed a starting role going into this year is an aspect of this Jets defense that has been under-analyzed. This is a little surprising given Mauldin didn’t outright earn a starting role through his play last season, only making the occasional play as a designated pass rusher. Against the Jaguars he found himself easily blocked out of plays and also missed a golden opportunity for a tackle-for-loss. Mauldin’s struggles with the first team have come during a training camp where he’s been strangely anonymous. It’s been a stark contrast to the plaudits rookie Jordan Jenkins has been receiving on the opposite side. With reports of him adding significant bulk to prepare as a full-time starter, it’s fair to wonder whether it has caused more harm than good. It’s not time to push the panic button just yet, but the slow camp and underwhelming first preseason performance are troubling.

Dee Milliner has a rough outing.

Let’s temper expectations. If you were thinking that Milliner was a player with a serious shot at starting Week 1, this is a wakeup call. But as far as a more realistic scenario of Miller carving a depth role out in 2016 and maybe growing into a significant contributor as the season progresses, this first bad game isn’t everything. This is a player that just played his first in-game action in nearly two years. Some rust is to be expected, and it just so happened to be amplified by a nightmare reintroduction to NFL competition through one of 2015’s most explosive receivers. If he’s seeing significant minutes in preseason game 4 and not looking any sharper, then there will be causes for concern.

Jalin Marshall sees opportunities with the first team as a receiver. 

Very big deal. This to me might be the biggest takeaway of all from last week’s game. Forget the fact that Marshall only actually ended up catching one pass for ten yards, there was a clear desire by the Jets coaching staff to get Marshall some reps while the starters were still in. This was before Charone Peake, Marshall’s chief KR competitor Jeremy Ross and most notably last year’s fourth WR Kenbrell Thompkins saw any snaps at receiver. It’s not only a sign that the coaching staff has become intrigued by Marshall, but it seems an indication that his roster spot may already be sealed.

The first team defense gets ran all over. 

Non-issue. The effort seen in the first team defense’s cameo last week was uninspiring to say the least, but the amount of proven talent in the prime of their careers in the Jets front seven means this is nothing to worry about. Not to mention this performance came with Muhammad Wilkerson and Steve McClendon as non-participants. Everybody came out healthy, and that’s the only thing that matters.

Jace Amaro fails to stand out in extended playing time. 

Not a big deal. After the conclusion of last week’s game I felt more frustrated for Amaro rather than frustrated in him. There were a few opportunities where he was schemed to get the ball but the play wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. One example he was the target of a screen that was blown up and another he had downfield separation only for a pass to sail out of reach (alligator arms maybe, but also not a great throw). By all accounts it’s been a nice camp for him and it sounds like he rectified his quiet preseason performance with a huge 80-yard touchdown in camp soon after. I think it’s inevitable we’ll see Amaro get more involved in the coming preseason games and put an impressive performance to film that matches what he’s been doing in camp. In Amaro’s bid for a consistent role this year, the bigger issue is one not of his control. Quincy Enunwa looks ready to make the Jets’ dynamic duo at receiver a big three, and a more featured receiver role for Enunwa will come at the expense of Amaro.

Ross Martin throws away an opportunity to impress on field goal duty. 

The pressure is on. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this kicker competition is over already, but the margin of error for Martin has decreased considerably. Missing a 54-yard field goal could be forgiven on a debut, but the shank from inside 40 yards was incredibly poor. A saving grace may be that Folk hasn’t been running away with this competition in camp. An impressive second preseason game from Martin could heat this competition up again, but he needs to show he can be relied on. A playoff expectant franchise isn’t going to turn to a rookie kicker unless there is an understanding he can handle pressure well. Last week was not a good start.

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