- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets close the preseason Thursday against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium -- the annual backup bowl. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Stories to follow:
1. Quarterback drama on hold: Mark Sanchez (shoulder) is out and, although the team hasn't made it official, rookie Geno Smith also will sit. This is a smart move by coach Rex Ryan. Really, it's the only move. Sure, Smith could use the work, as he showed in throwing three interceptions and taking a safety Saturday against the Giants, but it makes no sense to expose him to potential injury. After all, Smith could be the opening-day starter, depending on Sanchez's recovery. Ryan messed up last week with Sanchez, and he knows another blunder of that magnitude would put him in Woody Johnson's doghouse. (Probably the most luxurious doghouse in the neighborhood, though.)
2. The Simms spotlight: Matt Simms, who entered camp fourth on the depth chart, will start under center against the Eagles. He'll probably play most of the game, considering Greg McElroy (knee) is out. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Simms, son of Giants icon Phil Simms. He's having a terrific preseason, sporting a 137.5 passer rating, and could conceivably dislodge McElroy from the No. 3 job. Simms is rough around the edges, but he has the best arm on the team and the coaches love his moxie. Newly signed Graham Harrell, who arrived Wednesday, will be available for relief duty. The Eagles will start No. 2 QB Nick Foles, a former pupil of new Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. If the Jets were concerned about Sanchez's health to the point where they felt they needed a veteran, it would fuel heavy Foles speculation.
3. Position battles (other than quarterback): Placekicker and free safety remain open. PK Dan Carpenter was signed this week to compete with incumbent Nick Folk, who imperiled his spot last week with a missed field goal in OT. Jaiquawn Jarrett, a former second-round pick of the Eagles, is expected to start at free safety, but Antonio Allen is leading the competition.
4. Cinderella lives in Jersey: WR Ryan Spadola, an undrafted rookie from Howell, N.J., via Lehigh, is the feel-good story of the summer. He's inching his way up the depth chart and has an outstanding chance to make the 53-man roster. Spadola leads the team with 169 receiving yards on seven catches, including a 70-yard play Saturday that set up the game-winning field goal in overtime. He's battling veterans Ben Obomanu and Mohamed Massaquoi for the fifth receiver spot; there's also a chance the Jets could keep six. It would be a stunner if Spadola is cut.
5. On the line: This will be an important game for the three draft picks on the offensive line -- LG Brian Winters (third round), OT Oday Aboushi (fifth) and G Will Campbell (sixth). Aboushi and Campbell are on the bubble and need to play well to make the team. Aboushi's chances were hurt with last week's return of veteran backup Jason Smith. Campbell, making the transition to offense after playing defensive line in college, looks bound for the practice squad. Winters, uneven last week in his debut, could push presumptive starter Vladimir Ducasse as the season progresses.