Friday, August 17, 2012
Jets-Giants: 5 things to watch
By Rich Cimini
Eight months later, Victor Cruz still is running in the minds of the Jets. OK, enough torture. Let's focus on Saturday night, the 44th preseason meeting between the Jets and Giants and the second annual MetLife Bowl.
It's a Jets home game, which means we need to start with a logo update: No, they're not planning to pull a repeat of last Christmas Eve, when they covered the Giants' Super Bowl logos on the wall outside their locker room -- an ill-advised move that angered the Giants and sparked a pregame controversy.
From a Jets perspective, focus on these issues, not the scoreboard:
1. Tebow-Mania debuts on Broadway: Well, not Broadway, but you get the idea. This will be Tim Tebow's first game in front of the home crowd, which should keep the fans in the seats into the fourth quarter. Tebow and the backups probably will take over at the start of the second half, but he will make a cameo in the first half as the personal protector on the punt team and, perhaps, in the Wildcat.
Would they unveil the Wildcat after all the ridiculous paranoia that surrounded "Operation: Clandestine Cortland"? Probably not, but they practiced all those plays this week for a reason. As a conventional QB, Tebow will look to rebound after a tough opener.
2. In search of the end zone: The Jets are one of six teams that haven't scored an offensive touchdown this preseason. Look, no one is panicking around the Jets, but it's important to create confidence-building moments when installing a new system. They didn't game-plan for the Giants, and Tony Sparano plans to keep the play calls fairly vanilla, but that doesn't preclude them from, like, you know, moving the ball and scoring.
It'll be hard to pass because the banged-up receiving corps could be down four players, including Santonio Holmes, but they should be able to establish a running game. In the opener, the Mark Sanchez-led starting unit managed only 20 net yards on 14 plays. If Sanchez & Co. can put together one substantial touchdown drive, it can walk away feeling better about the direction of the offense.
3. Protecting Sanchez: It has to be better than last week, right? Not necessarily. The Giants will threaten the edges with all that pass-rushing ability at defensive end. RT Wayne Hunter, who sat out last week with a stiff back, makes his preseason debut. He was last seen on the field getting after Holmes in Miami. This time, Hunter will be in the spotlight for a different reason. He needs to take a positive step, providing evidence to the organization he's a better player than a year ago.
The Jets will stick to basic protection schemes. They want the linemen to gain trust in Sparano's schemes before they get into specific game-planning. Last week was rough. In only nine drop-backs, Sanchez was sacked twice and flushed once from the pocket.
4. A show of hands: If the Jets want to pull the trigger for a veteran receiver, they'll have to do it soon. That's why this game is critical in the evaluation process. With Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens and, possibly, rookie Jordan White out, GM Mike Tannenbaum will get a good look at rookie Stephen Hill, Patrick Turner and the other kids. This is a big game for Hill, who had a third-down drop last week. They think Hill had first-round talent coming out of Georgia Tech. If he rebounds from last week, it'll allow team brass to feel better about the situation.
5. Q's rating. Rookie DE Quinton Coples was terrific last week in his debut, but now we're hearing coaches and players say the No. 1 pick needs to show more intensity in practice. That was the question that dogged him coming out of North Carolina. Very few players in the NFL have the talent to blow off practice and turn it on for game day. We'll learn more about Coples in this game. He should get more work with the starting packages, a better test than last week in Cincinnati, where he produced mostly against backups.