On Sunday night the New York Jets take on the Cincinnati Bengals at the New Meadowlands Stadium (7 p.m EST). Both teams are coming off of losses last week, but in the grand scheme of things the preseason is about working out the kinks and evaluating players. In this game you should see the starting units for both teams play into the second quarter.
Offensive line- Injuries to Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, and Robert Turner have many concerned about the Jets offensive line depth. Mangold is slated to return to action on Sunday night, but Gang Green still needs to find some players that can fill in when needed. Second year player Vlad Ducasse, who was dreadful last week, will get a chance to redeem himself as he will replace Brandon Moore in the starting lineup. Another underwhelming performance by Vlad and the Jets will have to seriously consider bringing in a veteran free agent. Actually I think the Jets should sign a veteran lineman regardless.
Running game- Shonn Greene has been ruled out for this game which will give the Jets a chance to showcase their young running backs, Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell. LaDainian Tomlinson will start the game, but I cannot see the Jets giving the future Hall of Famer a heavy workload in terms of carries. Keep an eye on fullback John Conner and his blitz pickup/pass protection.
Plaxico debuts- Plaxico Burress will make his Jets debut Sunday night and is expected to play a good portion of the first half. Look for quarterback Mark Sanchez to get Burress involved early on.
Young receivers- Jeremy Kerley, Patrick Turner, and Jeff Cumberland (tight end) all had impressive week one performances. The young pass catchers must build on that performance and continue to show the Jets coaching staff that they have what it takes to garner some playing time.
More McElroy- Mark Brunell will miss Sunday night’s game due to injury which means rookie quarterback Greg McElroy will see extensive playing time in the second half. McElroy had a rough start last week, but finished the game showing a good command of the offense. McElroy will not impress you with his arm, but he does what it takes to move the ball down the field.
Defensive line- The Jets will be without Sione Pouha and Marcus Dixon on Sunday night which will give several young players a chance to impress the coaching staff. Martin Tevaseau and Kenrick Ellis will get the bulk of the snaps early on so watch the battle in the trenches in terms of run defense and penetration against the passing attack.
Linebackers- Bart Scott has been ruled out and there is a strong chance Calvin Pace will not play as well. Josh Mauga, who had a solid game last week, will start in place of Scott and Jamaal Westerman could replace Pace. This is a big week for Westerman who Rex Ryan has annointed a situational pass rusher. If Jamaal struggles you could see more of Aaron Maybin.
Secondary battles- Several young players in the Jets secondary are fighting for playing time and roster spots. At the cornerback position Gang Green will be looking to Kyle Wilson and Marquice Cole for depth, while the safety position has some serious competition with Dwight Lowery, Brodney Pool, and Emanuel Cook all fighting for reps.
Punting competition- The starting position is still up for grabs as T.J. Conley and Chris Bryan continue to battle it out. Early reports have Conley in the lead, but nothing is official at this point.
Novak vs. Folk- The starting kicker position is also up grabs with Nick Novak and Nick Folk dueling it out. I have a funny feeling this is Folk’s job to lose.
Young returners- Last week rookie receivers Jeremy Kerley and Dan DePalma impressed in the return game. The Jets will hope to see the young returners continue to improve to eliminate the need to have a veteran like Jim Leonhard take over some of the responsibilities.
As with every preseason game, the goal is for the team to leave the field healthy. The Jets are dealing with injuries to several prominent players and do not want to see anyone added to the list. After the injury concern you just want to see the Jets play smart, physical football on both sides of the field.