On Monday night the New York Jets will open up the new Meadowlands stadium by taking on the crosstown rival Giants (8 pm, ESPN). This is the first preseason game for both teams, therefore not much should be expected in terms of game planning or play calling. This is reiterated by the fact that the starting players for both teams will barely play into the second quarter. With that being said lets take a look at some things to keep an eye on from a Jets perspective.
1) Left guard battle- Matt Slauson and rookie Vlad Ducasse are battling for the starting left guard position and this is their first chance to show the coaching staff what they have against a game opponent. Slauson is slated to start the game, but I am sure Ducasse will get several reps as well. Keep an eye on how many times the Jets try running the ball to the left side, and how comfortable they are pulling the guards.
2) Secondary play- The New York Jets are incorporating several new players into their secondary including Antonio Cromartie, rookie Kyle Wilson, and Brodney Pool. It will be interesting to see how the players are adapting to Rex Ryan’s defense as well as communicating with one another. In addition the Jets are still without All-Pro Darrelle Revis, so Gang Green will be looking to several of the younger players like Dwight Lowery to take on bigger roles.
3) Special teams play– This is one of my biggest areas of concern as the Jets are looking to replace kicker Jay Feely and special teams ace Wallace Wright. As of now Nick Folk is penciled in as the starting kicker, and David Clowney leads a cast of candidates to replace Wright. Keep an eye on the kick coverage, kickoffs, and field goal attempts.
4) Quarterback competition- Rex Ryan has stated that veteran quarterback Mark Brunell has locked down the backup quarterback position, which means Kellen Clemens and Kevin O’Connell will be battling for the #3 spot. (Note: Erik Ainge is on the reserved list) I continue to think that the Jets will try and trade Clemens, but you never know the Jets could keep 4 quarterbacks on the roster. Brad Smith could also get a look at quarterback, as he is a very dangerous threat out of the wildcat formation.
5) Gholston watch- This season is make it or break it time for defensive end/linebacker Vernon Gholston. The much maligned Gholston has been receiving praise from coach Rex Ryan, but actions speak louder than words in the NFL. Can Gholston make a case for some playing time? Can Vernon actually get to the quarterback? Also on the watch list is rookie running back Joe McKnight who has been in and out Ryan’s doghouse. Look for McKnight to get extensive action in the game.
6) Team performance- Even though this is the first preseason game of the year, it will be interesting to see the swagger and intensity of Gang Green. The Jets have been a talkative bunch and now it is time for the team to show some of their “swag” on the field. Will Gang Green come out aggressive and physical? Will the Jets be able to control the line of scrimmage and impose their will on a Giants team decimated by injuries? Will Mark Sanchez air the ball out a little bit, showing off some of his new weapons (LT, Holmes)?
7) Attendance- This is the first preseason game which usually means minimal attendance by the season ticket holders (25,000 at best). Will the Jets fans show up to check out their new stadium and support their highly touted team? Will there be patches of empty seats in the vastly overpriced stadium club seats, reminiscent of the opening of Yankee stadium? Note: The Jets will be having a “Ring of Honor” ceremony at halftime honoring Joe Namath, Don Maynard, Weeb Ewbank, Joe Klecko, Winston Hill, and Curtis Martin.
For those of you attending the game: With the transition to PSL and Non-PSL parking lots I would allow extra time to get to the stadium as there is guaranteed confusion and traffic delays.