Thursday, August 7, 2014
W2W4: New York Jets
By Rich Cimini
The New York Jets (0-0) and Indianapolis Colts (0-0) open the preseason Thursday night at MetLife Stadium:
1. Pressure on Geno Smith: The quarterback job is Smith's to lose. Now all he has to do is ... you know, not lose it. A solid performance will allow him to continue as the front-runner -- that means no silly turnovers -- and that would make life a lot easier for the Jets' decision makers. Smith will start (you knew that already) and will play into the second quarter, handing off to Michael Vick. Rex Ryan, turning up the heat just a little bit, said he wants to see production from the first-team offense, meaning at least one touchdown. If Smith stumbles and Vick provides a spark off the bench, you will see the early stages of a quarterback controversy. Remember, the plan is to give Vick at least one series with the starters. Two reasons for that: He deserves it because of his stature. He needs to stay sharp and develop chemistry with the first unit ... just in case.
2. The Chris and Eric show: The Jets will unveil their two marquee newcomers, running back Chris Johnson and wide receiver Eric Decker. Much of the season hinges on how well they produce. Frankly, it's a little surprising that Decker will play, considering his cranky hamstring, but he wants to get some time with Smith and the starters. Save for a couple of shaky practices in recent days, the $36 million man has been spot-on in camp, displaying the ability to create separation against cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage. If you are at the game, do yourself a favor and focus on Decker for a few plays. You will see a master route runner at work. Johnson's surgically repaired knee hasn't given him any trouble, but we still haven't seen too many "wow" moments from the former 2,000-yard runner. Look for him to line up in different places; the coaches want to get him the ball in space.
3. The Depleted Dozen: The early returns on the 12-man draft class haven't been dazzling, partly because of injuries. First-round safety Calvin Pryor (concussion) and fourth-round wide receiver Shaq Evans (shoulder) won't play; third-round cornerback Dexter McDougle (groin) is iffy. The silver lining is the Jets aren't relying on their rookies as much as last season. The spotlight will focus on two rookies in particular, second-round tight end Jace Amaro and fourth-round receiver/punt returner Jalen Saunders. Amaro, struggling with the playbook, should get plenty of snaps -- and he needs the work. At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, he is straight out of central casting, but the adjustment to in-line tight end hasn't been easy. As for Saunders, the punt-returning job is his to lose.