If revenge is on the minds of the New York Jets, it shouldn't be. This isn't about avenging the loss on Christmas Eve. The only thing they should be concerned about is proving themselves in terms of a roster spot.
With that in mind, here are just three things to watch during the game.
If the Jets want to execute a ground-and-pound style of offense effectively, they'll need backs who can provide big plays. The Jets yards-per-carry average of 3.82 was the third-lowest in the league last year, and was the lowest per-carry average since Ryan took over the team. They'll have to do better than that to execute the offense in the image of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano.
It starts with the men up front, and they didn't have a great go of it against the Bengals. The Jets have the talent on the line to turn it around, especially in terms of run-blocking. If they're able to do so, though, the backs will still have to step up.
Running back Shonn Greene has been a mixed bag, and has drawn a heavy dose of criticism as an average running back, not the type who can carry a heavy load for a run-heavy offense. Greene has played in zone-blocking schemes for much of his career, so a man-blocking scheme under Sparano might help him out—it certainly helped out Reggie Bush with the Dolphins last year. The problem is, Greene isn't that kind of runner. He lacks burst and isn't great at shifting gears when he has to change directions.
He's not the only one underperforming. The Jets have been waiting for running back Joe McKnight to contribute in ways besides special teams for years, but he has yet to do so.
It appears he's been jumped on the depth chart by second-year running back Bilal Powell, who was held back by a lockout-shortened offseason program last year and never got caught up from there. It didn't help that he only became a full-time running back as a senior. He has had an impressive camp so far, according to reports. He was primarily a third-down back last week; could his explosive capabilities help him contribute in that role?
There are a lot of players with the potential to contribute, it's just a matter of who steps up. The Jets are hoping it's someone, no matter who it is.
Up against a vicious Giants pass-rush, the Jets are going to have to prove that they can give quarterback Mark Sanchez the time in the pocket he needs to make throws. They were exposed a bit in pass protection last year, specifically right tackle Wayne Hunter.
Some of this will depend on their ability to get the ball moving in the running game, as the play action will then become a much bigger part of the offense, but the offensive line has to execute better in the passing game. It would be nice if they instilled some confidence that Sanchez will have time to go through his progressions.
The last thing they want is for him to get shaken up early and start forcing it. As ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski points out, while Sanchez is a good quarterback on the move, he's not great when he has to run from pressure. That's when he makes some of his most erratic throws.
Personnel in Front Seven Based on Packages
We know that strategy rarely comes into play during the preseason; it's all about evaluation for the respective coaching staffs. Still, it will be interesting to see how the Jets employ their personnel in the front seven.
This is especially true, since it looks like a lot of the Jets defense is built around the concept of specialization. There are run defenders and pass defenders.
Linebacker Bart Scott, for instance, is more of a run-defending linebacker whereas rookie linebacker Demario Davis is better against the pass.
First-round defensive end Quinton Coples has been used at defensive end in the 4-3, coming off the edge as a pass-rusher, but where will they put him against the run? Also, how will he factor into the 3-4 defense (if at all)—will he stand up or rush from the inside?
What about defensive end/outside linebacker Aaron Maybin—is he on the field in running situations, or are they still using him primarily as a pass-rusher? Word was he bulked up with help from legendary Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps to become a three-down player; will he earn that role in a game situation?
The Jets won't show their hand schematically, but they'll want to see how certain players perform in specific situations and positions in the defense. This will be a big opportunity for evaluation purposes, and the Jets won't likely want to miss out.
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