5 Things to Watch for in New York Jets' Preseason Finale

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IAugust 30, 2012

5 Things to Watch for in New York Jets' Preseason Finale

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    We may have seen the last of Mark Sanchez and the starters, but the final preseason game is still extremely important. 

    The contest will decide which players on the roster bubble squeak into the final 53 and which are sent home in excruciating fashion. 

    The game against Eagles in Philadelphia will also showcase how much depth the team possesses and show if Gang Green has any breakout candidates for the 2012 season. 

    With that said, here are five things to watch for on Thursday night. 

Greg McElroy

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    Greg McElroy is a proven winner, having led Alabama to an undefeated season and a BCS National Championship a few seasons ago. 

    However, the former college standout has yet to make any impact for the Jets in his brief professional career.

    On Thursday, though, McElroy will have the stage to himself, as he is expected to start and play the majority of the game against the Eagles.

    It will be interesting to see how the 24-year-old fares against a solid Eagles secondary and uncover what kind of ceiling he has at the NFL-level. 

How the Offensive Line Stacks Up Against the Eagles Pass Rush

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    New York's offensive line has been a massive disappointment all preseason, but the second unit can redeem themselves to an extent with a good showing against the Eagles. 

    The team shook up things earlier this week, as it traded much-maligned right tackle Wayne Hunter to the Rams for Jason Smith. 

    Smith is one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory, as he has failed to make any sort of impact after being drafted by St. Louis second-overall in 2009. 

    The coaching staff has said Smith might play in Philadelphia, so it will be interesting to see if there is any sort of improvement from the unit without Hunter. 

The Depth of the Secondary

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    With the addition of hard-hitting safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, the Jets boast one of the most formidable secondaries in the league. 

    Thursday night will show us if the depth of the back-end group is also top notch. 

    Rookies Antonio Allen and Josh Bush have impressed coaches at training camp, and Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster are also no slouches. 

    The group is loaded with talent, but it will be interesting to see how they match up with an explosive Eagles' passing game. 

The Roster Battle at Linebacker

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    Gang Green is absolutely stacked at linebacker. 

    The team has 12 players capable of making an NFL roster, but the team likely only has nine spots available. 

    With David Harris, Bart Scott, Josh Mauga, Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace, Aaron Maybin and rookie DeMario Davis being locks, there are five players vying for just two spots. 

    Those men are second-year men Nick Bellore, Garret McIntyre and Ricky Sapp, and undrafted rookies Marcus Dowtin and Brett Roy. 

    Each youngster has been terrific at times throughout camp, so the final two spots are still up in the air. 

    Whichever ones impress the most on Thursday are in very good shape to make the 53-man roster heading into the regular season. 

The Tight Ends

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    The tight end position was severely weakened this week, as backup Josh Baker tore his ACL and is out for the season. 

    The injury to Baker opens up a roster spot for one of the reserve tight ends, and the battle for that position will likely be decided in Philadelphia on Thursday night. 

    Jeff Cumberland is a near-lock to make the roster, so the contest is between rookie Hayden Smith and second-year man Dedrick Epps. 

    Smith is a huge force who has nice potential, but he is just learning how to play football. He made the switch from rugby to gridiron just this year. 

    Epps is a 24-year-old who was selected in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. Like Smith, he is yet to make a significant impact in training camp. 

    Both players are yet to impress coaches, so the roster battle is still very close. 

    Expect the one who plays better tonight to make the roster.