Best and Worst of New York Jets' Preseason
Rookie Geno Smith is not ready to be a permanent starter in the NFL.
Smith's blatant inefficiency to read the defense and deliver passes on time virtually ended the Jets' on-going quarterback competition, until incumbent Mark Sanchez went down with an apparent right shoulder injury.
For the Jets, it's always about damage control.
However, it appears as though Smith is just as turnover-prone as the reigning giveaway king of the world.
The Jets' regular season opener is less than two weeks from now, when Gang Green will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets still face several unknowns across the depth chart, namely quarterback. It hasn't all been bad for New York since training camp commenced last month, though.
The following slideshow highlights the best and worst of the Jets' preseason:
Best: Matt Simms (QB)
Fourth-string quarterback Matt Simms has shredded backup defenses like it's nobody's business in two preseason appearances.
Simms was initially an afterthought in Jets' camp. Backup QB Greg McElroy was good enough in the Jets' preseason opener against the Lions to seemingly wrap up the bottom-end of the team's depth chart.
Simms has been increasingly impressive over the past two weeks though, working behind a band of bubble players.
The 24-year-old gunslinger has completed 11-of-15 pass attempts for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason.
He's displayed supreme arm strength, hurling bullets to open receivers downfield.
It didn't appear necessary for the Jets to carry more than three quarterbacks on their depth chart at the start of training camp. However, Simms has forced the coaching staff to make a hard-pressed decision.
McElroy will likely see additional action in the preseason mop-up game on Thursday night against the Eagles. His performance could determine whether or not the Jets opt to keep four quarterbacks.
Worst: Joe McKnight (RB)
Running back Joe McKnight endured a strange training camp.
McKnight generated headlines over the offseason when he dubbed himself a contender for the team's role of lead back.
Since then, he hasn't helped his cause.
McKnight plummeted into bubble-trouble despite speed back Mike Goodson being absent for training camp.
McKnight, like Goodson, was arrested before the preseason got underway. The circumstances were vastly different, though.
McKnight had a warrant out for his arrest for unpaid parking tickets, an inexcusable mishap for a professional athlete reeling-in at least six figures.
In addition, McKnight suffered a supposed concussion—officially referred to as a head injury—and missed a significant amount of practice time in Cortland, N.Y.
McKnight failed a conditioning test prior to suffering a head injury. He was recently unable to make it through a day of practice because of the lingering effects of his ailment and needed assistance off the field.
He suited up for action against the Giants and was expected to play, but never received any action.
The weirdness surrounding McKnight is one of the worst segments of the Jets' preseason.
The embattled running back was finally cut on Monday morning, according to the team's official website.
Best: Bilal Powell (RB)
Bilal Powell has taken full advantage of the influx of opportunity he's been granted in team practice and preseason action.
Powell was thought to be a question mark before training camp commenced.
Newly acquired power back Chris Ivory was widely recognized as the obvious choice to be the Jets' lead back. In addition, cut back slasher Mike Goodson was considered a reliable third-down option, a dynamic change-of-pace type player that could bust through space for big gains.
But Ivory suffered a mild hamstring pull that hampered his ability to prepare for an increased work load. He scarcely practiced through the first two weeks of camp and was used sparingly in preseason action against the Jaguars.
On the flip side, Goodson hasn't seen the practice field since inking a contract with the Jets.
The culmination of injury and absence prompted a chance for Powell to reestablish himself as a legitimate running back in the Jets' new-look offense.
Powell hasn't been spectacular, but he's been good enough.
The Jets have struggled to effectively run the ball throughout the preseason. However, the run-game hasn't been a point of emphasis, considering the uncertainty the Jets face at quarterback, and new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's love-fest with throwing the football.
Powell has averaged 3.6 yards per carry on 27 attempts in three preseason games. He also recorded a touchdown against the Giants' second-team defense.
His numbers aren't eye-popping, but Powell is at least consistent.
Worst: Kyle Wilson (CB)
Nickelback Kyle Wilson did a solid job of filling in for departed Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis last season, aiding a secondary that yielded just 189.8 passing yards per game.
Wilson is a prideful brand player that boasts enormous work ethic. However, his work-horse attitude hasn't translated into better success on the field.
The fourth-year veteran continues to commit rookie mistakes in preseason action.
Wilson was flagged for three pass interference penalties against the Giants. The former Boise State standout started opposite Antonio Cromartie because rookie Dee Milliner was unable to play due to injury.
Wilson displayed below average ball awareness in coverage against Giants' stud wideout Hakeem Nicks, seldom turning his head in time in an effort to deflect the pass.
The Jets need Milliner to develop quickly for the sake of avoiding disaster at the No. 2 cornerback position.
Wilson is noticeably undersized for his position at 5'10'' and 190 pounds. He's recorded six solo tackles and one deflected pass so far in the preseason.
He doesn't appear to be good enough to handle a starting position in the base defense, despite seemingly exceeding expectations in 2012.
Wilson is a somewhat established role player, but hasn't developed into the type of cornerback the Jets thought he would be.
Best: Damon Harrison (NT)
Second-year nose tackle Damon Harrison has been a positive surprise for the Jets throughout the preseason.
The 340-pound gap-stopper appeared sparingly in five games for the Jets last season, but has seemingly developed into a solid second-tier defensive lineman during the preseason.
Harrison got the nod to start against the Giants because of an injury to starting nose tackle Kenrick Ellis and flourished.
He totaled seven total tackles, including two for loss, in just 32 snaps to lead the team.
The Jets' defensive front was impressive against a banged-up Giants' first-team O-line, constantly swarming two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
Harrison's individual performance likely secured a spot for him on the Jets' final 53-man roster.
He demonstrated brute strength in the trenches, forcing his opponents on their heels to create pass rushing lanes.
Harrison has the size and athleticism necessary to succeed in the NFL. He also provides much-needed depth the Jets' D-line.
Worst: Geno Smith (QB)
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith received a gift-wrapped opportunity to overtake Mark Sanchez as the Jets' main signal-caller in 2013 against the Giants.
Smith failed on a massive level, though, hurling three interceptions in a span of 12 pass attempts. It's highly possible that a turnover-free performance would have earned Smith the starting job.
Instead, the Jets quarterback competition turned into a debacle and hit rock bottom.
For Smith, his struggles are part of a learning curve. However, the multitude of mistakes he committed against the Giants make it known that he's simply not ready to take over the Jets' offense to start the season.
The fact that Smith suffered a mild right ankle sprain in his preseason debut against the Lions—and was slowed down in practice—had a noticeable impact on his immediate development.
Smith looked flustered under center against the Giants. He telegraphed several passes and seldom read the entire field before making a throwing decision.
His three interceptions happened for entirely different reasons: a late-timed pass, an overthrow and a bad read.
The Jets seemingly simplified their offensive attack for Smith, tossing several screen passes, in the face of an aggressive pass rush.
Smith's "brutal" practice doesn't mirror how bad his first NFL start was.
He struggled against a first-team defense that ranked 31st in the league last season.
He added-on to an unrecoverable performance by running out of the end zone for a safety after the Jets were pinned deep into their own territory at the start of the fourth quarter.
Smith was supposed to supply upside to the Jets' QB dilemma. The rookie boasts some potential, but he's not a foolproof answer to the Sanchez problem at this juncture.
Best: Ryan Spadola (WR)
Undrafted rookie wide receiver Ryan Spadola continues to turn heads.
Spadola has been the biggest positive surprise throughout Jets' training camp and is a virtual lock for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
He was impressive again in extensive action against the Giants, pulling down three catches for 110 yards and a touchdown to lead the team. His 70-yard catch-and-run in overtime set up an eventual game-winning field goal, albeit in the preseason.
Spadola has totaled seven catches for 169 receiving yards in three preseason games to lead the team in both categories.
He seldom drops the football, a monumental feat for the Jets' receiving corps. His ability to create open space with his speed after the catch enables him to turn moderate gains into big yardage.
It's too early to dub Spadola the second-coming of Wayne Chrebet, especially considering the size difference, but the former Lehigh scoring threat has the potential to be a reliable downfield target in New York.
Spadola will get one more chance to dazzle Jets' fans before final cuts are made, an important date that shouldn't have him worried.
Worst: Mark Sanchez (QB)
The Jets' former golden boy has been up and down throughout the preseason.
Sanchez was left down for the count after completing five of six pass attempts for 72 yards against the Giants during garbage time of an insignificant "rivalry" game.
The bumbling quarterback has endured a chaotic situation as the Jets' main signal-caller since Tebow-mania came to town in July 2012.
A majority of Sanchez's blunders have been inexcusable mistakes—like the snap he fumbled against the Giants—that a veteran leader shouldn't make. However, the injury he suffered to his right shoulder should be chalked to the coaching staff.
Head coach Rex Ryan has deservedly received the brunt of the blame for Sanchez's injury. It was completely irresponsible to let Sanchez take the huddle behind a backup offensive line.
It's also arguable that Smith shouldn't have played as deep into the second half as he did. His lackluster performance wasn't going to be fixed by second-half triumph over the Giants' bottom-feeders on defense.
The inevitable outcome of the Jets' QB competition is befuddling.
Smith was flat-out terrible in extended preseason action. Sanchez is supposedly day-to-day after suffering a bruised ligament in his throwing shoulder.
It would be unprecedented for Smith to win the Jets' QB competition after an ugly showing in Week 3 of the preseason. However, the Jets are out of options and Sanchez isn't guaranteed to be healthy enough to play in Week 1.
The Jets can't continue to extend a critical positional battle as the regular season opener looms large.
Neither player has risen to the occasion to claim the Jets' title of starting QB. What happens next is totally unpredictable.