Joe McKnight may just be the most important backup taking the field tonight.
We're hours away from the New York Jets season from beginning again. I couldn't be any more excited, which is why I am going to preview it. But instead of making outlandish predictions just before a preseason game, I thought it nice to tell you who to watch for, so when they have a big game, I can say, "Told you so." Anyways, here they are, both on offense and defense.
1. Joe McKnight, Running Back
As the Jets try to utilize the ground and pound system, it's important to see if the Jets put their eggs in the right basket. I trust Shonn Greene, and besides, he'll only be in one series. The McKnight-Bilal Powell tandem will shock the Jets universe for better or worse. Tonight, I want to see McKnight hammer a 20-plus yard run, to show me he has big play ability. I'd also like to see at least two receptions. He may be receiving 100 carries this season, so he better showcase his talents against these second stringers.
2. Stephen Hill, Wide Receiver
Big play ability, blazing speed, good height, superb run-blocking skill, but can he run a route that isn't a streak? Such questions Jets fans ask themselves. We know he's been acrobatic in camp, but how is he going to look against other cornerbacks and other defenses. Will he be able to make the jump to a legitimate starter?
I need to see a curl, slant and a screen. He doesn't need to be passed to and if he is passed to, there need not be a completion, I truly only care about his route running. I'd also like to see him catch something in the red zone. And being a starting rookie, I think he has chance to gain more playing time throughout the preseason. Expect to see him early and often.
3. Austin Howard, Offensive Tackle
He's supposed to replace Wayne Hunter? Will he? He was not good enough to ever get one start, but did Dave Deguglielmo teach him anything? Did D'Brickashaw Ferguson take him under his huge wings?
Hopefully we are given more answers than questions because he'll definitely be coming off the bench this season, regardless of injury. All I want to see is that he can block a speedy DE coming off the edge. I do care more about his pass blocking skills than how he fares in making rushing holes.
4. Quinton Coples, Defensive End
The Jets' first round pick has been somewhat disappointing. After all, fans and some Jets personnel alike believed that the 4-3 would be getting a lot of looks this season, but now Mike Pettine says that he may not start in some schemes. So what are we going to see from him? I have high hopes for the Muhammad Wilkerson-Quinton Coples duo. I want to see at least one sack from Coples, and I want him in during the 3-4 formation.
5. Eric Smith, Free Safety
When the season ended, there was almost a unanimous decision that a good coverage safety was the Jets' biggest defensive need. How did they address that need? By signing Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, two well known run stopping safeties who have great struggles in man coverage.
Bell has decent zone coverage, but he even struggles in the cover 2 look. We'll see tonight how he fares, albeit a short look. That is why Eric Smith's performance is essential. I can't watch the Jets let up the huge catch every game this year. It has lost them games and caused the team to suffer as a result. So what do I want tonight? I want Eric Smith to not allow a catch over 20 yards. While lofty, if he can hold down the Cincinnati Bengals' receivers, I have some hope for him as a starting FS.
So what do you think?
As we watch the important players like Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis, let's take a look at some of these guys for the night, because in a year, they could be the marquee players of the New York Jets. With that said, let's enjoy the game tonight and go Jets!