The Rex Ryan era begins tonight with the Jets first preseason game versus the St. Louis Rams at the Meadowlands. While wins and losses mean next to nothing in the preseason, here are some things to keep an eye on.
1) Offensive line play- The Jets will be without three starting offensive linemen due to injuries; Damien Woody, Nick Mangold, and Alan Faneca. It will be interesting to see how the reserve players handle extensive playing time as Gang Green is in dire need of line depth. Can the line open holes to get a running game established? Will the line allow enough time for the quarterbacks to get into a rhythm?
2) Defensive line play- The Jets will be without defensive tackle Kris Jenkins who is the force that the defense is built around. Can the defensive line win the battle of the trenches without Jenkins? In addition are there any defensive ends that can apply enough pressure to take double teams away from Shaun Ellis?
3) Tight end blocking – While Dustin Keller is a major threat as a receiving tight end, the Jets still have a void when it comes to blocking. Has Keller improved his blocking enough to where he is not a liability? Is there anyone on the roster that can fill the position of blocking tight end?
4) The play of Vernon Gholston– With the suspension of linebacker Calvin Pace the spotlight has been put on second year player Vernon Gholston. Depending on what you believe Gholston has either been lousy in camp or much improved. Now is the time to see if Vernon has taken a step towards making an impact in Rex Ryan’s defense.
5) The performance of the wide receivers- After Jerricho Cotchery the Jets have an assortment of young wide receivers fighting for spots on the roster and the starting lineup. Which player will step up and show that they are ready to bring their game to the next level?
With the Jets missing three out of five starters on the offensive line it does not seem fair to evaluate the quarterback position. If Rex Ryan was smart he would not give substantial reps to Kellen Clemens or Mark Sanchez as the risk of injury or damaged confidence is too great. In terms of the competition between the two young gunslingers, it is somewhat concerning that they are not getting productive playing time. There is a good chance this could force Ryan to make his decision on his starting quarterback after the Jets third preseason game.
The New York Jets have signed kicker Parker Douglass and waived wide receiver Huey Whittaker. I would not put too much into this move, if anything Douglass will allow Jay Feely to rest a bit during the preseason.