The New York Jets will be playing their preseason home opener on Saturday against the Redskins. After the Jets’ second and third units handed the Cleveland Browns a loss with an impressive come from behind performance, there are still some things the fans should keep their eyes peeled for when the Redskins come to the Meadowlands.
Obviously, this is a completely different team from the one that prepared for the Cleveland Browns. The acquisition of Brett Favre adds a whole new dimension to the Jets’ on-field personality. Already named the starter, it will be interesting to see how Favre performs come time for game action.
After Wednesday’s morning session, Favre admitted to feeling some fatigue in his arm. That’s to be expected as his off-season conditioning regimen wasn’t that of a player with plans for the next season.
“My arm’s kind of dragging today,” Favre admitted. “It’s not really sore, but to be honest with you, I’m surprised that I almost half feel good because I’ve been able to make it through every practice so far.”
Contrary to popular belief, however, this Saturday will not be the Brett Favre Variety Hour. Jets’ fans have a lot to take a look at so the expectations for the season to be measured accordingly.
The new offensive line performed well. The unit surrendered no sacks and afforded the quarterbacks with plenty of time to select their targets. I don’t think the game plan involved much attention to the running game. At least, I hope not. Jets’ running backs combined for a feeble 59 yards on 17 carries.
Despite that, I do believe the focus was on pass blocking and giving the quarterback enough time to throw the ball.
I couldn’t help but feel like Kellen Clemens was making a conscious effort to release the ball sooner. One of the knocks on his play last season was the amount of time he held on to the ball after the snap. While he didn’t light the field up with his four completions and 31 yards, Clemens didn’t turn the ball over either.
The wide receiver position battles are as wide open as ever at this point. What we knew before has gone out the window. The receivers that will make this team and contribute are the ones that show the best aptitude for timing with Brett Favre. The new objective is to not only choose the best receivers, but to utilize the ones Favre develops the most comfort with.
If the reports from the practice sessions are any indicator, Jerricho Cotchery has established himself as a legitimate target for Favre. Dustin Keller, although a tight end, also appears to be a favorite, as every day there’s a new report showering him with praise for his speed and hands.
As for the second and third units, the battle for the third QB roster spot is shaping up to be an actual war. Hindered by offseason surgery on his index finger, rookie Erik Ainge hasn’t had a real opportunity to shine. He played in Cleveland last week, strictly in a hand-off capacity. After Brett Ratliff’s 252 yard and two touchdown performance, the job appears to be his to lose.
It will be interesting to see if the Jets carry four quarterbacks on the roster this season. Delegating Ainge or Ratliff to the practice squad will make them available to any team that wants them, and I don’t think the coaching staff is prepared to let either one of them go. Ainge has prototypical size, and Ratliff showed poise and quick decision-making. These next preseason games will likely determine which man has a job with the Jets this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, things look a bit scary. The Jets’ played without David Harris at inside linebacker, but the wall at the line of scrimmage still looked to be made of sheet rock. The entire defensive unit looked to be a step slow on the field.
Early in the game, Cleveland running backs were pounding the ball right through the defense for some impressive gains. That’s not what we want to see with the well-advertised big man, Kris Jenkins, in the middle. Some running plays were stuffed at the line, but Cleveland’s good gains came at bad times for the defense.
The pass rush also felt non-existent. Both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn had plenty of time to choose their receivers, seeing little to no pressure. The only sacks of the game came from Kenwin Cummings and Thomas Johnson. It was a backups versus backups scenario. Yes, we love to see the pressures and statistics, but it would’ve been more exciting to see it from the projected starters.
Sixth overall pick, Vernon Gholston, saw a lot of action during the game, shifting in with the first unit. His speed was impressive when he finally decided on his plan of attack. Too many times it looked like he was still reading a play as it was unfolding. That can be credited to inexperience. With his contract, expectations are high. I just hope we don’t scare Gholston away before his talent manifests.
The secondary wasn’t much to write home about. Outside of excellent play from Dwight Lowery, the first and second units weren’t around to stop plays quickly enough.
In all fairness, I know the defensive approach is supposed to be very vanilla in the preseason, but that raises my concerns about raw talent. If the team doesn’t want to show off all of their packages, schemes, fronts, and alignments, that’s fine. But it’d be great to see players making plays with instincts.
The special teams also needs to see a significant improvement. Mike Westhoff left some abnormally large shoes for Kevin O’Dea to fill, and it’s simply not an area Jets’ fans are prepared to tolerate inconsistency. Tackling lanes on kickoffs collapsed a lot sooner than they should have. If the defense is going to be playing sluggish, the Jets can’t afford to lose field position battles in the process.
On the flip side of that situation, Mike Nugent is finally showing the NFL leg strength that made him the Jets first overall pick in 2005. Balls were flying into the end zone, and the potential to pin the Browns deep in their own territory was there.
Regardless, I’m certain the Jets will be shattering some type of preseason attendance record this weekend with fans excited to get their first glimpses at Favre in green and white. However, while these games may still be exhibition, the adoration showered upon the Jets has the potential to backlash if the team doesn’t look good.
Fortunately, it’s only preseason. Right?