By Glenn Naughton
With the Jets getting set to kick off their second pre-season contest, a road game against the Washington Redskins, we take a look at a few players worth watching early on, and when the starters have exited and battles for roster spots are playing out on the field. Generally these can be broken down to individual performers, but with it being the pre-season, there are plenty of battles at specific position groups, so we’ll start with a couple of those.
Quarterbacks Bryce Petty, Geno Smith and Christian Hackenberg- Head Coach Todd Bowles said early in camp that the number two QB job was “up in the air” but has since backed off of those comments, suggesting otherwise. However, the Jets are clearly in full evaluation mode of Petty as he got the lions share of snaps as the number two this week.
Even if it’s not their intention to have Smith and Petty battle it out for the number two job, should Petty out-perform Smith, is it something they’d be willing to turn a blind eye to?
For Smith, this could be a chance for him to clear his head without having to hear boo’s raining down on him before even taking a single snap. He’s boycotted the media since facing off against Jacksonville on Thursday after ducking post-game interviews, chalking it up to being “focused”. Just how much that focus pays off will be determined tonight against Washington.
It should be interesting to see if Gang Green trots Petty out with the 2’s or the 3’s and 4’s as the did last week, or if he’ll be flipped with Smith.
Could any other fan base possibly be looking more forward to the pre-season debut of their 4th string QB than Jets fans? Highly unlikely, but it’s not without good reason.
While plenty of attention will be paid to Petty and Smith, hopes will likely be highest for Hackenberg as the team gets its first look at this year’s second-round draft choice, who they’re hoping is the answer to their decades-long search for a franchise QB. Hackenberg has seen increased reps in recent days and made some very good throws at practice on Wednesday.
The Young Wideouts- Jalin Marshall, Charone Peake, and Robby Anderson headline a group of playmaking rookie receivers who are generating plenty of buzz at Jets camp.
Marshall for the fact that he finds ways to get open on a consistent basis, while Peake and Anderson continue to utilize their height (6’ 2’’ and 6’ 3’’ respectively) and sub 4.4 speed to stand out.
Peake was the best of the group in the team’s pre-season win against the Jaguars as he led the team with 4 catches, one of which showed great awareness and body control as he kept his feet in bounds while falling to the ground and hauling in a touchdown pass.
Anderson didn’t show much in terms of numbers, but he narrowly missed making an impressive touchdown grab from Petty on the corner of the end zone. This week in practice, Anderson also made a eye-popping, one-handed grab on a pass from Petty that appeared to be good for a big gain before being called out of bounds by an official.
With more reps in practice this week, Hackenberg seemed to have solid chemistry with Anderson and threw his way several times. Should he get the opportunity, look for Hackenberg to try to find Anderson a time or two.
OT Ryan Clady- One of the off-season’s most important acquisitions as D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s replacement at left tackle, Clady is still trying to get the rust off after missing all of last season. He was beaten by rookie defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue on a sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick which should be taken with a grain of salt at this point, but fans should be watching to see if it becomes a regular thing for the former Pro-Bowler.
S Dion Bailey- Bailey was up and down at Jets practice this week after saying he felt he wasn’t being given a chance at one point. Head coach Todd Bowles was asked about Bailey’s comments but didn’t seem too concerned. The following day, Bailey had a pair of passes defended to go along with an interception of Bryce Petty to close the session out. Bailey, it appears, is doing all he can to prove he belongs on one of the most talented defensive backfield’s in the NFL.
OG Craig Watts- A former San Diego Charger, Watts held his own last week against the Jaguars back-ups while Brian Winters was pushed around a little bit in the passing game early on. Given Winters’ experience and knowledge of the system, he may be difficult to unseat, but Watts is a mauler in the run game who may push Winters. Watts may also get a look at right tackle at some point if Brent Qvale or Ben Ijalana don’t step up and seize the opportunity in front of them with starter Breno Giacomini on the shelf.
Inside Linebackers Erin Henderson, Bruce Carter and Darron Lee- Henderson, the projected opening day starter, had a rough day at the office against Jacksonville. A pair of missed tackles and being run over by Chris Ivory got him plenty of attention from onlookers for all the wrong reasons.
As the team’s first-round draft choice, some fans may be tempted to ask for more of Darron Lee, but head coach Todd Bowles is more likely to use him as a chess piece in a variety of roles, for the time being, anyway.
Then there’s Carter who has appeared in 63 career games (35 starts), picking up close to 300 tackles to go along with 5 sacks and 5 interceptions.
Even with Henderson likely to retain the starting job, depth at linebacker appears to be the best it’s been in years. That alone is reason to keep an eye on what the Jets have behind the starters in the middle.
TE/H-Back Jace Amaro- Amaro might be a tight end or H-back on paper, but his off-season weight loss combined with the team lining him up in the slot and on the outside against Jacksonville suggests they may have other plans for the third-year pro. If not for a pair of errant passes from Geno Smith and Bryce Petty last week, Amaro could have had a nice game for himself as he managed to get plenty of separation from linebackers and defensive backs, but nobody was able to hit the 6’ 5’’ pass catcher.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 tonight between the Jets and ‘Skins. Be sure to log in to our forums to talk about all the action.