The New York Jets are set to kickoff their preseason schedule on Saturday evening at MetLife Stadium against Eric Decker and the Tennessee Titans at 7:30PM EST. Although many starters are not expected to play for more than a series or two, both young quarterbacks should see significant reps while additional roster spots remain open for the taking, making this a fun game to watch for plenty of reasons. Here are some players and stories to monitor throughout this game.
The quarterback competition officially heats up, as Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty will get their first real chance this summer to open some eyes. Veteran Josh McCown is likely to start and play for a series or two, before turning things over to Hackenberg, who should see the most reps of the three quarterbacks. Surviving in one piece will be task number one, as the Jets offensive line has struggled mightily in the first two weeks of practices. Task two will be establishing some chemistry with a raw group of playmakers. The Jets have received some criticism for not allowing both quarterbacks more time to work with the first unit, but getting the offense to function as a cohesive unit on Saturday night could help change that going forward.
Opportunity Knocks for Morris and McGuire
It would be a surprise to see Matt Forte (hamstring) take the field after missing practice for most of the week. Bilal Powell (neck) has already been ruled out, meaning Romar Morris and Elijah McGuire should see plenty of carries. Both running backs provide big play potential and the ability to contribute in the passing game. Is there room for both on the roster?
Stewart and Hansen look to find their role
Third and fourth-round draft picks ArDarius Stewart and Chan Hansen have been slowly working their way back into team drills following offseason surgery, and should be expected to play Saturday. With Quincy Enunwa out for the season, the Jets will need both rookies on the field contributing this season. Along with Robby Anderson, most of the first team reps have gone to Charone Peake and Jalin Marshall. Still, the door is wide open for someone to step up and earn playing time here, as offensive coordinator John Morton has not been happy with the number of drops in practices of late.
Todd Bowles’ defense
Although Bowles is unlikely to reveal anything of significance in the preseason, it will be interesting to watch how he handles certain personnel packages and player rotations this year. Will the Jets stick with a 3-4, or use some 4-3 packages to take advantage of a strength on the defensive line? Could Rontez Miles be a part of more three-safety looks? With improved safety play, will Bowles once again return to his ways as an aggressive defensive coach with exotic blitz schemes? While all of this is unlikely to get answered after just one preseason game, look for signs of how Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers will look to get the most out of a young and talented defense.
Number Two Cornerback
After Morris Claiborne, the Jets depth chart at cornerback is also open for somebody to emerge. I am still not convinced that Buster Skrine’s roster spot is safe, as the team may look to continue to stockpile cap space for 2018. Although Skrine has the second highest cap hit of any Jet in 2017, his 2016 performance suggests he should be on the field earning his spot. Marcus Williams, Juston Burris and Darryl Roberts figure to be the trio that round out this group in some form, but don’t sleep on sixth-round pick Derrick Jones or undrafted free agent Xavier Coleman pushing for playing time, as both have flashed early in camp.
Will Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye see the field?
Although Adams and Maye are pretty much locked in as starters, they are still rookies adapting to the speed of the NFL game while learning a new defense. With Quincy Enunwa down and an already thin depth chart, the Jets will certainly be cautious with their key players in preseason, which has to include Adams and Maye. Expect both to see the field for a couple of series before giving way to Rontez Miles, Doug Middleton, and Ronald Martin.
Finding a return man
One way to help boost an offense that will be in need of some assistance this season is with better field position. The Jets special teams has failed to provide that big play spark over the past several years, often leaving the defense in a vulnerable position as well. Lucky Whitehead, Frankie Hammond, and Romar Morris have seen a majority of return duties in practice, and will look to change that. Jordan Todman and Marcus Murphy have also been working in, but Morris has looked the most explosive of the group in practice.