- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The Jets open the preseason Friday at the Lions. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Here is what to watch for:
1. Quarterback battle, Round 1: Mark Sanchez starts, Geno Smith relieves. Sanchez figures to play a series or two with the starters before yielding to the rookie, who might get a series with the first unit. Smith will stick around and play with the backups as he attempts to convince the powers-that-be that he's ready to take over the team. The focus is on Smith, but it'll be interesting to see Sanchez in Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense. He loves the system. We'll see if it loves him back.
2. The rookies: The Jets could open with three in the starting lineup -- DT Sheldon Richardson, CB Dee Milliner and FB Tommy Bohanon, the only fullback on the traveling roster. Incumbent Lex Hilliard didn't make the trip with an undisclosed injury. Milliner is rusty, which is to be expected. He missed the offseason and the first few days of camp, so his conditioning and technique still need work. Just for kicks, Rex Ryan should let Milliner cover Calvin Johnson for a couple of plays. Now that would be a welcome-to-the-NFL moment. Rookie LG Brian Winters (ankle) didn't make the trip, hurting his chances of winning a starting job.
3. Empty stable: Chris Ivory (hamstring) and Joe McKnight (head) are out, so the workload will fall to Bilal Powell. There's some concern among the coaches that Powell is being overworked, so don't expect a super-heavy work day. John Griffin and Chad Spann will see some carries as well. Mornhinweg, known for his pass-happy philosophy, will have no problem throwing it all over Ford Field.
4. Mega Who? When the Jets drafted WR Stephen Hill last year in the second round, they made the mistake of comparing him, from a size-speed standpoint, to another Georgia Tech alum -- Johnson, aka MegaTron. Hill is nowhere close to Johnson, but he has made strides on the practice field, especially with his technique. Now he has to take it to the game. With Santonio Holmes in limbo, they could be relying on Hill to be their No. 1 receiver.
5. New-look defense: They have seven new starters, so there's bound to be growing pains. They could show up in the secondary, which was overhauled in the offseason. The only returning starter is CB Antonio Cromartie. The Lions like to spread the field, and they have a quarterback (Matthew Stafford) who can get the ball anywhere on the field. This should be a nice first test for the Jets' sub packages. Watch LB Demario Davis; he brings a pass-coverage dimension to the linebacking corps.
6. Q's debut: Former No. 1 pick Quinton Coples plays his first game at outside linebacker. It has been a quiet camp for the former lineman. Part of that could be attributed to the position switch. But the coaches also want him to play with a greater sense of urgency. The feeling around the team is that Coples is the key to the defense. If he thrives in his new role, the defense has a chance to be really good.
7. Safety in numbers: The most unsettled position is free safety. Antonio Allen has received most of the reps, but he's hardly a sure thing. Former Eagle Jaiquawn Jarrett has impressed the coaches with his approach and he could sneak in and grab the job.