After a 17-12 preseason loss against the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets fans should be breathing a sign a of relief. After two ugly preseason games, their third one helped to assuage a lot of their fears.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez
Sanchez's stat line looks pretty poor—11 for 18 with an interception. He will continue to receive boatloads of criticism for it, especially from people who did not actually watch the game. However, for many Jets fans his performance was a breath of of fresh air.
The one interception was not the slightest bit his fault, as the ball tipped off the hands of his wide open receiver. He also had three on-target passes dropped by Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Dedrick Epps.
While the performance was not perfect—Sanchez is still not Aaron Rodgers—it was a quality start by NFL quarterback standards. The two high points were a perfectly timed slant route to Santonio Holmes and a completion on a back-shoulder throw to rookie Stephen Hill.
Right Tackle Austin Howard
Austin Howard—the replacement for maligned tackle Wayne Hunter—is a third-year player but is effectively a rookie. He has previously started one game in his NFL career. He was finally promoted to the starting spot during the week before the game, a move many Jets fans had been waiting for.
Howard did a good job of avoiding mistakes, giving up zero sacks and zero quarterback hits. He got beaten off the ball a few times, but he always recovered. Wayne Hunter's biggest failure has been in recovery, so Howard's ability to recover quickly is a good sign.
On the whole, Howard gave up a total of five quarterback pressures. However, none of these were intense enough to cause complete breakdowns.
At the end of the day, the Jets' starters only gave up seven pressures and zero sacks. The result was that the offense looked smoother and was able to move the ball.
This week, they shut down Cam Newton. His 6 of 15 passing for 60 yards is paltry compared to the huge numbers he will be putting up against most defenses.
Starting safety Yeremiah Bell rested this week instead of playing. However, free-agent pickup LaRon Landry got another interception and again showed how much of a steal he may turn out to be.
Slot cornerback Kyle Wilson was also used at free safety on a few plays. It appears head coach Rex Ryan plans to make use of Wilson's versatility.
Finally, cornerback Antonio Cromartie had one of his better games with two forced fumbles and two pass deflections.