Colts vs. Jets: Takeaways from New York's 13-10 Win over Indianapolis
With their New York Jets team facing loads of questions on both sides of the ball, Rex Ryan and his coaching staff have to come away from their first preseason game, a 13-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts, feeling a little empty.
Not only did the Jets lose a couple key players to injury, but it's hard to imagine that Ryan and his staff learned much about some of the key positions on the team. I know as a fan, I didn't glean much.
While Dee Milliner was impressive in his sophomore debut, the offense—particularly the running game—were pedestrian.
The Jets won the game and Geno Smith had a solid outing to retain his spot on the depth chart, but nothing quite stood out either. Michael Vick showcased his vintage mobility, but even he was not quite impressive enough to stir the quarterback controversy pot.
Here are some takeaways from the Jets preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
Geno Smith Stays Even
It was hardly a spectacular night for Geno Smith, but he did enough to ensure that his job will be secure for at least another week.
In a quarter of action, Smith was a modest 4-of-6, connecting with new receiver Eric Decker on a couple of occasions to set the Jets up with a scoring drive. He also showed off his mobility with a pair of runs to put up three points. Most importantly, he avoided turnovers.
Still, you have to come away from this game wanting a bit more from Smith. After all, he put up only 33 yards and failed to lead his offense to a touchdown.
This was a very workman-like performance from the sophomore quarterback, but the Jets would certainly prefer if Smith had a spectacular outing where he earned the starting job outright.
Michael Vick Displays His Old Form
If there were still any doubts about Vick's ability to perform at age 34, they were put to the wayside on Thursday night.
Vick ran like a man two-thirds his age, scrambling 15 yards to convert a 3rd-and-9. He was composed in the pocket, unafraid of pressure while going through his progressions.
He completed only half of his passes, but he did lead the Jets to their first (and only) touchdown of the game.
It will take a lot more than a few flashes in preseason for Vick to legitimately challenge Smith for the starting job, but it will be interesting to see if Rex Ryan decides to shake up the rep count with the first team next week. Getting only 20 percent of the first-team reps as of now (according to Rich Cimini of ESPN), Vick may have earned a slight bump.
Chris Ivory's Injuries Return
Chris Ivory is poised to have a huge year as the featured rusher on the Jets, but he may have already suffered a setback after leaving the game against the Colts early with a rib injury.
Ivory had a similarly slow start to the preseason last year, bogged down by hamstring issues before coming on strong in the second half of the season. We can assume the Jets were hoping to get a full 16 games out of their top inside runner, but those hopes may have been dashed before they ever had a chance to come to fruition.
What is even worse is that Ivory injured his ribs in the season finale of last year, raising the question as to whether he is particularly vulnerable in that area.
Injuries have haunted Ivory throughout his career—it is now easy to see why the New Orleans Saints were hesitant to make him their lead back. The Jets do have good depth at the position to make up for the possible loss of Ivory, but even the reliable Bilal Powell is sidelined with hamstring issues.
Dee Milliner Shows Life
After making noise for all the wrong reasons this summer, Dee Milliner demonstrated against the Colts the raw ability that made him the ninth-overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Milliner was more than solid in coverage, breaking up two passes in the first quarter. Andrew Luck challenged Milliner early and often, and the Alabama product was ready at every turn.
The Jets need Milliner to play like a true No. 1 cornerback this season. On Thursday night, he did exactly that.
This was a crucial start to the preseason for Milliner, who needs to start the regular season on a positive mental note after such a tumultuous rookie season. He still has a long way to go in order to live up to his own self-image, but this was a step in the right direction.
Dimitri Patterson Falls Short
While Dee Milliner locked up his side of the field, veteran Dimitri Patterson hardly looked the part on his side of the hash marks.
As soon as the Colts realized that Milliner was ready to play, they attacked Patterson, who is playing a bit out of position as an outside cornerback. Patterson gave up a long 45-yard reception and drew a holding call.
What is most troubling about his performance is that even if Milliner brings his "A" game, the Jets defense can still be thrown on. Rex Ryan could have seen this coming based on recent comments he made about Patterson's practice performance.
Patterson was assumed to be the No. 2 cornerback going into the season (or even the No. 1 depending on Milliner's play), but the fact that he was outshone by Dexter McDougle raises questions about his future as a starter.
Jace Amaro Rebounds
Dealing with a nasty case of the drops and knee tendinitis this summer, few Jets have had a rougher start to camp than rookie tight end Jace Amaro.
However, Amaro was able to have a bounce-back night in his preseason debut, making a pair of catches for 18 yards. More importantly, they came on key third-down plays—which is where Amaro will be needed most.
This is hardly a spectacular performance, and the Jets will want Amaro to have a lot more weekly production by season's end, but just getting a handful of catches and hits on his body must have felt good for a rookie who has been unable to find a groove in camp.
The next step for Amaro is to build on this performance and climb the box score next week. And if that becomes a trend for the rest of the preseason, he will be more than ready when Week 1 of the NFL regular season rolls around.
Chris Johnson Looks Rough
Armed with so much talent at running back, the Jets are built as well as anyone in the league to sustain injuries at the position.
However, based on Chris Johnson's forgettable debut, they should be much more worried about injuries to Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory.
Chris Johnson did score a touchdown for all the preseason fantasy teams out there (if you own one of these teams, find another hobby), but he had an otherwise forgettable night on all fronts. He did have a nice 10-yard reception, but he also dropped another pass.
Johnson is hardly a major concern for the Jets, but his play may have exposed a lack of depth at running back if Ivory and/or Powell are kept out by injury.
Run Defense Returns
The Jets have undergone a lot of changes over the past year, but one aspect of their team has remained intact—the run defense will be as stout as ever.
Trent Richardson squeezed out only 13 yards on five carries, which, based on the talent matchup, is about what was expected. The Jets defensive line is the same group as last year, with the exception of being healthier and armed with more experience than ever.
The second team allowed a bit more room for Daniel Herron and Zurlon Tipton, but neither breached 4.0 yards per carry. The Colts averaged just 2.3 yards on the ground as a team.
While the first-team pass rush did not dominate as much as one would expect against one of the lesser offensive lines in the league, there is no doubt that the Jets run defense will be at or near the top of the league this year.