After two weeks of training camp practices, baseless hot takes and ruthless national media scrutiny, the New York Jets are finally about to take the field for their first dose of real football.
The preseason gets underway Saturday when the Jets take on the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. For most teams, the preseason can be a bit underwhelming: starters and stars frequently sit out and the product can be a bit lackluster. However, for a team like the Jets with several starting positions available, the preseason should be a great watch.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and here’s what I’ll have my eye on.
Without Q, who will be the X, Y & Z?
For the few Jets fans that survived after the season ending injury to WR Quincy Enunwa, you may be wondering who on this team is going to step up and fill that void. Frankly, the answer is no one. There isn’t a player on this team that can replicate what Enunwa does; his versatility, his blocking, those little things that most receivers can’t do.
But someone will have to line up in his place, and I’m going to echo what Tyson Rauch said on this week’s Let’s Talk Jets: Todd Bowles should play all of these receivers for every single quarter of the preseason. Aside from maybe Robby Anderson, there are no solidified starters; no one has earned any time to rest, all these players need reps and they need them now.
I want to see ArDarius Stewart with the ball in his hands. Throw it to him, give it to him on screens, on end-arounds, I don’t care, just get him the ball and let him make plays. I was underwhelmed by Charone Peake last season, this year he needs to step up and grab himself a major role. Remember: this was a player who had middle-round talent but was taken later because of injuries. No more excuses.
Sheldon won’t be playing OLB, but who will?
While second-year pro Jordan Jenkins looks to have a secure lead on the strong side outside linebacker position, the question of who starts opposite him is anyone’s guess.
I ultimately believe this will be a battle between Lorenzo Mauldin and Dylan Donahue, but strong showings from Corey Lemonier, Frank Beltre and Freddie Bishop could force a change to Bowles’ approach, having him rely more on a rotation of rushers.
Keep an eye on Josh Martin. The Jets’ special teams ace is looking to carve out a larger role for himself on defense. He fits more on the strong side, but with Jenkins seeking to become more of a pass rusher, having another stout run defender opposite him could pay dividends for this new Sack Exchange.
There weren’t many things similar between the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but the one constant was an absolutely putrid special teams unit. It makes sense, with the older roster the Jets had, you only have a limited amount of players willing to contribute on teams. This year, however, the Jets have a lot of young, scrappy talent looking to use special teams as their ticket onto the final roster.
The returner job is perhaps the most up in the air job on the team, as several players are battling through camp in an attempt to show they can be that consistent option. Personally, I would love to see running back Romar Morris take control of this competition. Not only does Morris have great explosiveness but he can also contribute on offense more than other candidates vying for this job. The hype train for Morris is real, get on board now when it’s still hip.
The Kicker competition is heating up, folks! Just like last year, Ross Martin is looking like he has what it takes to push out the established veteran, this time it’s the former Arizona Cardinal, Chandler Cantanzaro. Special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said at the start of OTA’s that Martin had vastly improved his kickoff leg in the offseason; if Martin can deliver in the preseason and not lay an egg like last year, he’ll win this job.
What will you be watching for in this first preseason? Be sure to tweet your responses over to me @DMosher_NYJ and make sure to follow all of our NYJetsFans.com social media accounts for the latest news on all things Jets!