The New York Jets open their 2018 pre-season schedule tonight at home when they take on the Atlanta Falcons in what will be Sam Darnold’s first attempt to make an impression on his coaching staff without the safety net of the read quarterback jersey. Darnold ins’t the only important part of tonight’s match-up, so here’s a look at not only the rookie QB, but the other players Jets fans should be focused on.
QB Sam Darnold: As mentioned above, Darnold has had the protection of the red quarterback jersey in practice as he’s worked much of his magic against his own teammates with no real hitting. Tonight, that all changes, and we get to see if some of Darnold’s impressive traits will come through in live action. Thus far aside from struggling with deep accuracy, Darnold has impressed with many other aspects of his game. He’s been getting the ball out in a hurry while going through his progressions and keeping his eyes down field under pressure while masterfully operating in the red zone. Will that translate to live action? We’ll know in just a few hours.
Teddy Bridgewater: Quite simply put, this is a great story for Bridgewater who has come all the way back from a serious knee injury a couple of seasons ago with the Vikings. Odds are he’ll be dealt before the start of the season and a strong performance tonight could help boost his stock.
DE Nathan Shepherd: As has been the case with Darnold, Shepherd has been very impressive in the early going. The third-round choice out of Fort Hays State has looked the part of an NFL lineman thus far, and he’ll likely get plenty of work tonight to prove he belongs.
Tight Ends: Given the way Chris Herndon, Neal Sterling and Clive Walford have performed in camp, you can’t not be intrigued by what the trio brings. Athletic tight ends who have shown great hands early on should figure to have a big role in this offense. Herndon is the most important player to watch out of the three, as he’s viewed as the team’s future at the position.
O-Line: We’ve spent much of this off-season talking about how much better this unit should be with the addition of center Spencer Long and a healthy Brian Winters. If they get some run tonight, it will be interesting to see how they hold up. James Carpenter, meanwhile, has to elevate his play from last season or he’ll be a liability at left guard.
RB Trenton Cannon: The explosive rookie has stood out for much of training camp as a runner, receiver and a blocker. Look for him to get plenty of work along with running back George Atkinson as the Jets will likely take it easy on their starters, Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell.
WR Terrelle Pryor: Pryor will probably get some work tonight and he’s turned some heads in camp over the course of the past few days. Paired with Robby Anderson, the two could do some damage deep down the field and in the red zone.
WR Jonah Trinnaman: Why Trinnaman? As we explained above, Darnold has struggled with his deep ball. If the Jets want to see him take some shots down the field with the back-ups, Trinnaman reportedly runs a sub 4.4 40 and has managed to get some separation during training camp. We could see him targeted on a couple of big shots down the field.
CB Derrick Jones: The highly talented Jones has made a handful of highlight reel plays in practice. Now, the converted receiver gets some run with the microscope focused on him a bit more than he might be used to.
OLB Obum Gwacham: The Jets don’t have an edge rusher, and Gwacham is the closest thing they have from a traits-based perspective.
Football is here folks. Enjoy.