The first game of the preseason is right around the corner and Jets’ fans are ready! When training camp began two weeks ago, I wrote a preview with what fans should expect out of this team.
The direction of our team on both offense and defense will have a clearer picture after tomorrow night’s game, making it more than just another preseason contest. The implications of positive and negative performances by anyone on this team can very well carry over into the regular season.
I believe the majority of the starting positions are set in stone on the offense. Barring any injuries, we should see the same starters on the team as last last year’s squad. The only new faces should be the off-season acquisitions of Damien Woody, Alan Faneca, and Tony Richardson.
The starting offensive line should be on the field longer than any other position on the team. With two new faces there, it’s essential for them to build their chemistry, understand one another’s weaknesses, and be fully prepared for the regular season. Fans should be able to get a really good look at how well that line is going to perform together once they’re all on the same page.
The only two positions that remain unsettled are the aforementioned QB spot, and the Tight End position.
With the return of Chris Baker to active duty, it will be interesting to see if he can reclaim his role as the starting TE. Bubba Franks has looked very good in situational pass plays, and appears to be a fair run blocker, but I don’t believe he’s created enough separation to be the uncontested starter against the Jets’ veteran.
I don’t expect Baker to start against Cleveland, but I’d expect some reps. Also, I purposely excluded Dustin Keller from this competition, because he’s shown the potential to emerge as an offensive threat that transcends the TE role. I wouldn’t expect to see Keller on the line of scrimmage for rushing downs too often, as his speed and hands wouldn’t be put to good use there.
According to the Daily News, fans should expect to see Kellen Clemens with the first team against the Browns. This will be an interesting opportunity to see how Clemens performs in a game situation. Turnovers in practice are something Mangini does not tolerate. There are some players that never look good in practice situations; maybe they’re experimenting and trying to figure out what they can and can’t do with the offense. And then there are players that excel when there’s no pressure, taking advantage of the slower pace.
Clemens’ less than stellar performances during the first few weeks of training camp haven’t inspired much confidence in his ability to be a starting QB, but Chad Pennington has also failed to make the job his own.
I also wouldn’t read too much into Eric Mangini’s decision to start Clemens, though. I expect Pennington to start next Saturday against the Washington Redskins. I imagine the starter in game three against the Giants will be the favorite to start the season, but even that may be a bit premature.
For either of these gentleman, preseason does not exist. The games may not count towards a playoff berth, but please believe that both men will be playing these exhibition games as if the season is riding on it. So I’d expect both men to make the most of their opportunities tomorrow.
On the defensive side of the ball, all eyes should be on the secondary. Justin Miller is shaping up to be the man for that starting cornerback position opposite of Darrelle Revis. That’s fantastic news for Jets’ fans, as that position was a concern coming into training camp. Given Miller’s impressive play during camp, and the other young talent in a crowded defensive backfield, veteran David Barrett may find himself out of a job, as his cap number would be significant for a backup.
With three out of four positions seemingly solidified for the secondary, the main question has to be who is going to start opposite of Kerry Rhodes? As it stands Eric Smith has received the nod for tomorrow, but I don’t believe he’s truly separated himself from the pack. With Abram Elam right behind him, Smith doesn’t have much room for error. Rookie Dwight Lowery should see some activity at the safety position as well.
It will be great to see how well Kris Jenkins performs in the 3-4 in a game situation. Thus far, Jenkins has received mountains of praise for the way he’s played. Surely, Bob Sutton and Mangini want to see just how much his presence has improved the pass rush, so I would expect a few blitz packages to be thrown at the defense tomorrow.
Finally, there’s Vernon Gholston. He’s had his way with some of the Jets’ weaker lineman, showcasing his well-advertised strength and speed, but he’s also shown that he’s not totally comfortable with the defense. Admitting that he’s “drowning” in an interview with Jets Nation’s Steve Overmyer, Gholston knows that he has a lot of catching up to do and a substantial amount of work to put in before he can be considered for a starting role.
Fans should definitely expect to see him get a good chunk of time in the second half of tomorrow night’s game. There’s a chance he’s one of those guys whose motor kicks into another gear during a game situation.
Overall, the first team defense may spend a lot of time against an offense led by Brady Quinn, as Derek Anderson is not expected to see much, if any, time.
It’s fantastic to be able to watch some Jets’ football again! It’s time to kick the NFL in the teeth!