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What were most and least encouraged by in the New York Jets preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans?
Joe Caporoso: I was most encouraged by what appeared to be a faster, deeper defense than we saw in 2017. The Jets defensive line manhandled Tennessee for most of the game, making life easier for the linebackers and corners, an absolute must if the Jets are going to be competitive this season. Josh Martin, Dexter McDougle, Deon Simon, Leonard Williams and Jordan Jenkins all particularly jumped off the screen. It is extremely early but this defense may be much closer to the 2015 unit than the 2016 unit.
I was disappointed by the offense completely shutting down after their opening touchdown drive. You need to score points to win in football (SPOILER) so I can’t fawn all over Christian Hackenberg’s performance (although it was much improved from last year) until it is generating yards and points. I understand baby steps and how the West Coast offense works but it is unsustainable to run an offense with zero intermediate to deep passing game.Dalbin Osorio: I just finished watching the game, so for me it is still pretty fresh. I was most encouraged by the defensive line. I believe the defense is going to be too good to sustain all this tank talk as is, but the Titans have a pretty good offense and the Jets defense just absolutely dominated them. It is the first preseason game, so you try to not take too much from statistics, but the defense looked faster and they were flying to the ball. They were also finishing plays, which is something you did not see a lot of last year. Cutting the fat, sort of speak, by releasing Darrelle Revis and trading Calvin Pryor may have been necessary financial moves but they could be culture changers as younger guys step into leadership roles.
I was least encouraged by the offensive line. I know it was the first game they have played together, but with Tennessee having a pretty good defensive front the offensive line got absolutely zero push in the run game. That is concerning, considering how important the run game will be for Christian Hackenberg. I know some people were critical of his performance, calling it boring and whatnot, but those shots down the field open up more when there is a legitimate threat of a running game. If teams know the Jets cant run the ball, they will just have their corners sit on the underneath routes and play up with their safeties for run support. The Jets offensive line HAS to be better.
Scott Mason: I don’t have a lot to add to what Dalbin said, since I also believe the offensive line was the least encouraging unit and the defensive line the most encouraging. I think a lot of the “pro-tank” crowd flashed back at 2014 when the Jets won a meaningless December game against the Titans that cost them the opportunity to draft Marcus Mariota and thought “this defense is going to get this team six wins and keep the Jets from getting a QB.” It was only one pre-season game and Mariota barely played, but the defense looks solid and could carry the team to a few wins against weak opponents. The offensive line, on the other hand – which I have been more optimistic about than most – was absolutely terrible and is going to need to step it up. With the lack of experienced skill position playmakers on offense, if Hackenberg – when he gets his chance to start – is going to have any chance at all, he will need a productive running game and time to throw, and the offensive line didn’t look capable of helping either of those things happen. They need to get better quickly, or we won’t have to worry about watching McCown for very long because he’s going to get injured playing behind that trainwreck.
Joe Malfa: I was most encouraged by the performance of the offensive line, specifically Brandon Shell.Amid all the reports of the defense line dominating the offensive line in training camp, I have tried my best to remain calm and encouraged others to stay calm as well. This performance helped the cause.
The running backs only managed 56 yards on 31 carries, but that may be a product of missing Matt Forte and Bilal Powell rather than being an indictment on the offensive line. Only two sacks were allowed against a respectable Titans’ defensive front — none of them by way of Shell, who did not allow a single QB pressure on 18 pass blocking attempts, per Pro Football Focus.
I was a bit discouraged by the play calls when Christian Hackenberg entered the game.
Yes, Joh Morton is going to run a west coast offense that features a lot of short and intermediate routes, but I do not want to see him close the playbook because of Hackenberg. Going deep is certainly an option with the speed of Robby Anderson, as showcased by the 53-yard connection between McCown and Anderson on the game’s opening drive. Perhaps Morton wanted to ease Hackenberg into things and build his confidence a bit with the easy plays underneath, but I hope he doesn’t close off certain parts of the playbook for Hackenberg going forward.
David Aitken: Honestly I find it a little hard to find outright positives and negatives from this game that tell us something we didn’t already know. In Tennessee’s limited first team offensive snaps the defensive line was one of the highlights, but we expect this. Everyone wants to talk about Christian Hackenberg but I don’t really see anything that significant yet to take away. We know he has taken a massive step forward from the player he was last year that on rookie ability did not deserve to be on an NFL roster, but there wasn’t anything significant to glean in terms of whether he’s about to make a serious run at the starting position.
But while you can’t really extrapolate one good play and call it progress, Robby Anderson, Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins all had impressive individual plays that hint at improvement. Anderson toasting Logan Ryan and making an excellent adjustment on a deep grab, Lee making a nice solo tackle in the box on Derrick Henry, and Jenkins showing off some power on the edge with a one armed sack.
Discouragement? The Jets didn’t score any points after that initial Josh McCown drive and I echo similar concerns about the offensive line. When there are questions over the quality of the starting unit, naturally this means that the reserves are going to be major question marks as well. To an extent this is something that can be said about the team at large – with so many unproven young players getting an opportunity to start, there are even bigger questions following them on the depth chart.
Kyle Fahey: I personally was most encouraged by Dexter McDougle’s performance. Though the competition was lackluster… he was targeted six times and only allowed one reception for four yards, not a stat line to sneeze at. The talent has always been there for McDougle, he just always seems to get an injury or become buried behind veterans. Somewhere John Idzik is nodding in approval. I was least encouraged by the use of ArDarius Stewart in the offense. I know it’s week one and he is coming off of a light load due to injuries but I was expecting a playmaker of his caliber to be at least thrown to more than two times.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com